Arnold Palmer dead at 87. Damn, and the tractor is still running.
RIP The King!
The 1976 PGA Championship was just a few years past his prime. Arnie was in his late 40's at this point and swung the driver like a gorilla. Perhaps due to age, he did not have the long smooth swing of most modern pros, but more like a ferocious hack with a funny hitch at the end of the follow-through. The special thing about Arnie was not the number of total victories, but how he won so dramatically - perfect for the new medium of TV in the '50s and 60s. Also, he was not a country club elitist like many pros up to then, but more of a disarmingly friendly country boy. Very different personality than Tiger Woods and not quite as dominant at his best, but like Tiger he brought a ton of non-golfers/regular folks to the sport as fans and participants.
I had a very brief personal interaction with him at the President's Cup in 1996. I was there on a practice day when things can be pretty informal between players and fans. He was about to tee off during a practice round with Mark Brooks, Steve Sticker and others on the team and I was about 20 feet away and I called out, "go get 'em Arnie." He smiled and looked right at me and said, "not me, them." As he said that he pointed at Mark Brooks and the other players. I'll have to go dig out the box in my garage where I have nice hard copy photo of a smiling Arnie that I took at that moment on the tee box in 1996. Maybe I can scan it and post it in this thread. I'm sure there are a million stories out there just like mine. He had a truly ambassadorial way of connecting with people and his charisma was based on friendliness and unpretentious grace.
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I was at Pebble Beach for a trade association conference in May 2000. When we arrived, we saw Arnold Palmer in and around the lodge. My wife got pictures with him and of him as he was practice putting and just being around the lodge. I was in meetings so never really had a chance to see much of him but my wife was telling me how gracious and nice he was and how accommodating for pictures.
Part of our conference itinerary was a tournament at Pebble. My tee time was 12:10 as first group in our tournament and in the tee time right before us was Arnie and a group of somebodies who he was entertaining on behalf of the resort. Man, I was so excited; we'd be playing right behind Arnold Palmer! Well, about 20 minutes before he was supposed to tee off, a thunderstorm hit with 60 mph winds, sideways rain, and a ton of hail. It looked like winter by the time it was done. The crews had to go out and squigee off the greens and let the hail melt before we could go out. By the time they sent us all out, with about an hour-and-a-half delay, they shotgun started us from different tees. Arnie went off on number 1 and we wound up going off on number 7 so I didn't get to see him play. Very disappointing! The wind was blowing all afternoon; probably around 40 mph. We teed off on 7 at about 100 yards and I had to hit a 6 iron (normally a wedge distance). It was a fun day but kind of brutal conditions with the wind.
The next morning, I went to the lodge where our meetings were being held. It was a beautiful, calm morning, around 7:15 and very quiet, no one really around. As I was walking from the parking lot, I was going around the corner of a building and nearly ran into Arnie. He had gone to the little store on site to get his morning paper. I said hello and asked how he played the day before. He told me he shot 72 to which I responded with shock, due to the high winds. He just laughed a bit and stated that if you play at Pebble, you learn to play in the wind. We just kind of chatted for about a minute or so, he asked what brought us to Pebble, he wished me a good day and thanked me for coming there for our conference. He was as absolutely unassuming and nice as his reputation states. I will never forget that chance encounter.
RIP, Arnie. You were, and are, a classic.
For a lot of folks under age 30 the drink is all they know about the words Arnold Palmer. 100 years from now it may be his legacy, like the Shirley Temple, although you don't hear that one ordered much anymore.
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Back in the mid-to-late '80's I saw Arnie play in a Seniors tournament at Marlborough CC in Massachusetts. He drove his tee shot to the far left side of the fairway on a Par 5. We were standing in a crowd of onlookers in the rough only about 20 feet from his ball. He had well over 200 yards left to the green - all uphill, all carry. Someone in the crowd bellowed out, "Hey, Arnie, are you gonna go for it?" Palmer shot back without hesitation, "You bet your ass I am!" Then he turned to his caddy and said quietly, "Can I make it from here?"