(Photo of Tyler Merriman by Paul LaPann, The Parkersburg (W. Va.) News and Sentinel)
Tyler Merriman, 32, is the new General Manager of the 78-year-old Parkersburg, W. Va. club. While he misses his grandfather, Gale Taylor, the club’s longtime Course Superintendent who died at the beginning of 2019, he draws strength from remembering Taylor’s management mantra: “Problems are only opportunities dressed in work clothes.”
Before his death on January 2, 2019, Gale Taylor expressed his wishes that Worthington Golf Club in Parkesburg, W. Va. remain in the family, The Parkersburg News and Sentinel reported.
Three generations of the Taylor family had owned and operated Worthington GC since the course opened in 1941, The News and Sentinel reported. And now, a fourth generation of the Taylor family is running the club, after Tyler Merriman, 32, Gale Taylor’s grandson, was named Worthington’s General Manager in July 2018.
“Granddad [Gale] gave me the endorsement to become GM at one of the last Board meetings we had with him,” Merriman told The News and Sentinel after the course opened for the 2019 season. “It was something I had been looking forward to for a long time, and will always be a great memory I will have of him.”
As part of the club’s opening for the new season, a memorial service for Gale Taylor was held at Worthington on May 5, The News and Sentinel reported.
Gale Taylor became the majority stockholder in Worthington GC at the end of 2009, The News and Sentinel reported. And while he was technically retired as the club’s Course Superintendent, he remained actively involved in the business until shortly before his death, Merriman said. He could still often be found on the tractor mowing fairways, or in his favorite chair on Worthington’s front porch.
“One of the last things Gale expressed was his desire for the family to keep the golf course in operation, continuing a long tradition carried on up to that point by so many of [the family’s] children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” Merriman told The News and Sentinel.
A.P. “Phil” Taylor, Merriman’s great-grandfather, and his friend Buren Lieving bought the initial 75 acres for Worthington Golf Club in 1939 or 1940, and the golf course opened for play in 1941, The News and Sentinel reported.
Phil Taylor later bought Lieving’s shares in the club and purchased additional land, to where Worthington GC now has about 125 acres, The News and Sentinel reported.
At the age of 7 or 8, Merriman began working at Worthington cleaning golf clubs, picking up trash and cleaning out golf carts, The News and Sentinel reported. He started working at the club’s snack bar at 19, and has since worked in the pro shop, on grounds projects, renovation projects and now management.
“Growing up, I spent a lot of time at the golf course, as my parents worked here in the summer,” Merriman said. “It was a great place for a kid to grow up. All of the regulars become part of the family, and I’ve learned a lot from them over the years.”
In making the transition to General Manager, Merriman said he seeks advice from his aunt Nancy Taylor, a former General Manager at Worthington, The News and Sentinel reported.
At various times as many as nine or 10 members of the Taylor family have worked together at Worthington, The News and Sentinel reported. Merriman’s sister Abby, a school teacher, helps at the snack bar in the summers. The current owners are Susan Merriman, Tyler’s mother, and Eric Taylor, his uncle.
Norman Taylor, Tyler’s second cousin, has worked at Worthington for 50 years and is the pro shop manager and also coordinates the club’s golf tournaments. Tyler’s father, Dean, has also helped out at the golf club, The News and Sentinel reported.
Some of the improvements Merriman has planned for Worthington this season are purchasing 10 new golf carts, converting the sand traps to grass bunkers, elevating the No. 13 tee box, and planting a lot of grass seed to repair damage from last year’s floods, The News and Sentinel reported.
Last year was one of the worst years for flooding at Worthington, Merriman said. The course was closed over 20 times last season, he estimated, after Worthington Creek overflowed its banks across the golf course. “We are at the mercy of Mother Nature,”he said. But so far this year, the weather has been good at Worthington, he added.
Merriman wants to make Worthington GC a fun place for all ages and bring back the junior league for young golfers, The News and Sentinel reported.
Worthington Golf Club’s central location in town allows golfers to play a quick round of golf, Merriman noted. The course is flat and easy for golfers to walk, he added, making it “favorable” for young and old golfers.
Worthington is home to two of the oldest golf groups in the state: Worthington Senior Men’s Association and Worthington Women’s Golf Association, The News and Sentinel reported. The senior men’s gained 15 new members this year, Merriman said.
While it has been difficult not to have his grandfather at Worthington this season, Merriman said, “I think if you just take a look out at the course, you can see him in his life’s work.”
Gale Taylor would sometimes say, “Problems are only opportunities dressed in work clothes,” he added. “That’s something I like to remember as we continue operations.”