Arnold Palmer... A Biography
The saga of Arnold Palmer began when he was four years old, swinging his first set of golf clubs, cut down by his father, Milfred J. (Deacon) Palmer, who worked at Latrobe Country Club from 1921 until his death in 1976, much of that time as both golf professional and course superintendent. Before long, Arnie was playing well enough to beat the older caddies at the club. He began caddying himself when he was 11 and worked at almost every job at the club in later years.
The strongly-built young man concentrated on golf in high school, soon was dominating the game in Western Pennsylvania and twice won the Pennsylvania high school championship. He won his first of five West Penn Amateur Championships when he was 17, competed successfully in national junior events and went to Wake Forest University (then College), where he became No. 1 man on the golf team and one of the leading collegiate players of that time. Deeply affected by the death in an auto accident of his close friend and classmate, Bud Worsham, younger brother of 1947 U.S. Open Champion Lew Worsham, Arnold withdrew from college during his senior year and began a three-year hitch in the Coast Guard. His interest in golf rekindled while he was stationed in Cleveland. He was working there as a salesman and playing amateur golf after his discharge from the service and brief return to Wake Forest when he won the U.S. Amateur in 1954 following his second straight victory in the Ohio Amateur earlier that summer.
It was during that period that he met Winifred Walzer at a tournament in Eastern Pennsylvania. They were married shortly after he turned professional in the fall of 1954 and Winnie traveled with him when he joined the pro tour in early 1955. Mrs. Palmer died of cancer on November 20, 1999. Mr. Palmer and his second wife, Kathleen (Kit) Gawthrop, were married in a private ceremony in Hawaii on January 26, 2005. He underwent successful prostate cancer surgery in 1997 and has become a strong advocate of programs supporting cancer research and early detection.
The Palmer family consists of two daughters -- Peggy Palmer Wears and
Amy Palmer Saunders, who lives and, with husband Roy, oversees operations at the Bay Hill Club and Latrobe Country Club; four granddaughters, Emily Schneider (1/27/81), Katherine Anne Spears (9/2/82), Anne James (9/14/84) and Anna Flexer Wears (2/24/97); two grandsons, Samuel Palmer Saunders (7/30/87) and wife, Kelly, and William Gray Palmer Wears (10/16/94), and six great grandchildren, Charlotte Winifred (7/12/07), Grace Katherine (3/11/09) and Hannah James Spears (11/4/11); Samuel James (12/19/07), Mackay Owen (4/13/10) and Tucker Ray Schneider (4/24/12). Kelly Saunders has a son, Cohen, by a previous marriage. Mr. Palmer’s second wife has three children – son Al Gawthrop III and daughters Lynn Bouck and Blair Miller, all living in the Denver area – and eight grandchildren. Arnold's brother, Jerry, who succeeded their father as course superintendent at Latrobe CC, was general manager for many years and now is a member of his personal office staff, and sisters, Lois Jean Tilley and Sandra Sarni, live in their home area in Western Pennsylvania. Their mother, Doris, passed away in 1979 after a long, brave battle against crippling arthritis.
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