Kingdom: Did you watch the royal wedding on TV? What did you think of it?
Arnold Palmer: I watched parts of it. I enjoyed it.
K: Do you ever wish you’d have had one of those big weddings like Will and Kate had?
AP: I don’t think I would be a good fit for something that lavish. That’s not my style!
K: Do you think America misses anything by not having a royal family?
AP: No. I think we have a President and a government that is pretty good. I suppose it could use some touching up here and there, but I like our system and I like the freedoms and traditions we have.
K: You have played golf with Prince Andrew at St. Andrews. Have you played with any other royals from around the world?
AP: I’ve played with Philip and the one that abdicated, King Edward VIII. We played Seminole.
K: 2011 is the 50th anniversary of your first win in the British Open at Royal Birkdale. What can you remember of that championship and how would you describe your thinking when you hit your famous shot out of the bush during the last round?
AP: I was very conscious of the fact I’d lost The Open at St. Andrews and I was concentrating very intently on winning The Open. I just felt it was a must. That grass was thick and deep and it didn’t bother me at all. I had all my strength and used every bit of it to hit that shot. And it came out very, very well! I have very fond memories of that championship.
Palmer’s loss to Billy Casper (above) in the 1966 U.S. Open caused him some regret
K: Which of the majors that got away do you most regret?
AP: The Open in San Francisco (Olympic, 1966). It wasn’t a give away—Billy Casper won it. He played very well and beat me in a playoff. The other would be The Masters in ’61 when I had a one-shot lead at the last hole and made 6 allowing Gary Player to win.
K: Of your seven major championship victories, which one do you value the most and have the fondest memories of?
AP: I’d say the one you’re not considering a major. That would be the U.S. Amateur [Championship in 1954]. If I were counting, I’d count that one and I’d have to consider the British Amateur also. But the U.S. Amateur’s the one I consider my greatest victory. It meant everything to me and my career.
K: What about the ones counted among the seven?
AP: The U.S. Open was very special to me. The other is the Masters in 1964. Having won three, the one thing I wanted to do was walk up 18 with a comfortable lead and a smile on my face. That was a six-stroke margin of victory and it was a wonderful feeling.
K: Do you enjoy the Presidents Cup, which is going to be played in Australia later this year? How do you think it compares to the Ryder Cup?
AP: I think it’s a situation that gives the opportunity for other nations to join in. There are a lot of similarities. It’s an international competition that creates a lot of interest. It doesn’t measure up to the stature of the Ryder Cup, but it is an outstanding team event in its own right.
K: Along with several other companies, APDC has thrown its hat into the ring to design the 2016 Olympic course in Brazil. When will the decision be made and how much time will whoever is successful need to build the course?
AP: The time is critical as of right now. I have thrown my hat in the ring, but I’m not pursuing it as forcibly as I once was. Certainly, I would love to have the opportunity to design the golf course for the Olympics, but there will be other times and other Olympics. I’m hopeful if I hang around long enough I’ll have time to have one of my courses be featured as the venue for the Olympics.
K: What distinguishes the UMPQUA Bank Challenge as an event? Why do you participate in the tournament? And could you please describe your friendship/rivalry with Peter Jacobsen?
AP: I have played in the Fred Meyer tournament with Peter for many years. They called and asked if I’d play. I don’t play enough golf to really warrant playing. But I said I’d make an exception for this one. Peter and I have been good friends for a long time and I am happy to support him and the tournament.
K: Earlier this year you opted not renew your pilot’s license. Do you miss not being in the pilot seat or do you prefer to relax in the comfort of your own plane?
AP: I do miss it. I’m not flying at the moment, but I’m going to be taking my physical again and give it some thought. I had done it for a long time. I wasn’t giving it the full attention you need. If you’re going to fly you have to really be up to snuff so, yes, I’m considering getting back in the pilot’s seat again.
K: Are you satisfied with the level of play in the Palmer Cup, and which players struck you as particularly impressive?
AP: I was very pleased with the caliber of golf I saw on both sides in the match this year. They are all extremely talented young players and I wouldn’t want to single any one out.
K: Which are your favorite sports stadiums and why?
AP: I think Pittsburgh has done very well with its professional football and its professional baseball park, in particular. The Pirates play in the best baseball stadium in the world. I had the opportunity to go to Real Madrid’s [stadium] in Spain and it’s a fantastic place. Really enjoyed it. But I have to stick with Pittsburgh right now. They do a wonderful job. Pittsburgh’s lucky to have those stadiums.
K: You’re serving as honorary chairman for the Mylan Classic for the second year in a row. How important is the tournament to Western Pennsylvania?
AP: Pittsburgh’s such a great town and a great city for golf. We have so many outstanding courses around the city. I have some very good relationships with the people who organize the event. So all that comes together and makes me want to support the Mylan Classic. Plus, they give my grandson an exemption so I am happy to help out. The Nationwide Tour is the way of qualifying young men to come out and play the PGA tour. Those players are just a half-a-step behind the regular tour on ability. These golfers are all really great players and it is a great series of events that’s created a great interest in the game and has given a lot of people additional opportunities to earn a living playing golf.
K: Latrobe had a difficult winter. What do you, with an architect’s eye, look for when returning to the course after a long absence? What kind of improvements?
AP: I look at all golf courses with some aggressiveness and I look to see what I might do to make it even better. Not necessarily more difficult, but make it so the golfers can enjoy it more. And in today’s age where the ball flies so far I’m constantly looking at ways to give those big guys a greater challenge. And I look for natural beauties and things that will improve the environment and make it more appealing.
K: How are things coming along at the new Latrobe CC-affiliated Marriott Spring Hill Inn & Suites?
AP: We’re very excited about the new Marriott Spring Hill with 109 rooms. It’ll be most convenient to the airport and I think it’ll be a lot of fun. The other thing is we will have a friendly relationship with the Latrobe Country Club and that could be a very good thing for both the club and the hotel. I think it’s going to do very, very well.
K: Are you pleased with the shape and usage of The Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve in the years since it opened in 2007?
AP: That is a marvel, an absolute marvel. People are coming to visit from everywhere. Without us even asking, people are sending donations and asking us to improve it and help make it better. Young people particularly enjoy it. I think the future for the nature reserve is very bright.
A presentation to Arnold and Winnie Palmer from Jack Stephens
K: You knew Jack Stephens (Stephens Financial, Chairman of Augusta National) quite well I think. What was Jack like and do you know his son, Warren, whom we interview in this issue?
AP: I know Warren very well and we’re friends. And Jack Stephens was one of the great guys of all time. He was a fun-loving guy, an excellent businessman and an excellent mentor for Augusta. Bottom-line, he was just an all-around great guy and someone I enjoyed very much.
K: Did you enjoy yourself at the Masters this year? Was there any news about Gary Player joining you and Jack Nicklaus as an honorary starter in the future?
AP: I can’t predict anything about that. I get the feeling I’ll be asked back and I think Jack will, too. I don’t know what they’ll do regarding Gary joining us. Right now,
I think they like the fact that Jack and I do it and play the par-3 tournament. It’s a pleasure for me to be asked and to participate.
K: You’ve hit so many nerve-wracking shots. How does the 1st tee at Augusta rank in terms of nervousness?
AP: As Augusta has been known to do, they do things very, very well. They elaborate on the important things. I think that makes that tee shot pretty special for both Jack and me. And, yes, I absolutely do get the jitters! When I don’t get the jitters I won’t be there.
K: What car are you currently driving and is there any particular new model that you have your eye on?
AP: I’m driving a SUV Cadillac. But I look at everything. I’m very vulnerable to the new automotive campaigns coming out. I can be swayed by a good ad. I’m looking at everything. That means not just General Motors. I’m watching Ford, Chrysler, Mercedes—all the new stuff coming out. And I’m not just interested in speed; I’m looking at all the amenities. So much new stuff coming out, cars that park themselves and accident prevention systems. It’s very exciting.
Mr. Palmer relaxes with some of the putters he has collected over the years
K: This year it seems many pros have successfully used belly putters on Tour. Have you tried one? What are your thoughts on them?
AP: I…am…HIGHLY…opposed…to belly putters. Touching the body with one of your instruments shouldn’t be allowed. I have been against it from the beginning and I’ll always be against it. I am a traditionalist and think the game should be played the way it’s always been played. And I think the golf ball should be slowed down. I’m an old fashioned guy. I think we should stick to the stuff that’s always been there and not tinker too much with a game that’s always been so great at its most basic levels.
K: In a recent PGA Tour event, Webb Simpson called a shot on himself in the last round because his ball oscillated as he addressed a tap-in. He ended up losing in a playoff to Bubba Watson. Assuming there’s no intent to make a stroke at the ball or any deliberate attempt to improve the lie, do you think that if a player accidentally moves a ball as he addresses it he should be allowed to replace it to its spot with no penalty—as if he accidentally nudges it while preparing to tee off?
AP: I think that rule is being looked at and I don’t think it should be a penalty. He hadn’t addressed the ball and the ball moved and I’m not sure why he was penalized. I understand they are looking at making some changes regarding that rule and I look forward to hearing what they are.
K: In the event of a ball lying in a divot on the fairway, which happens a lot in the modern professional game, do you think there’s a case for this lie to be declared ground under repair, resulting in a free drop?
AP: As for the divots, that’s rub of the green. Your ability as a player should come into play. You should be able to play a shot out of a divot. You can call it bad luck, but I don’t think it should be called ground under repair. The ball should be played as it lies.
K: Also what is your view about players being allowed to repair spike marks on the line of their putts?
AP: Now, that’s a debatable area. There are very few spike marks with the soft spikes, but a lot of players are still wearing the hard spikes. I see spike marks and the game would be better if we all wore soft spikes.
K: Are you at all superstitious? Do you or did you ever carry a lucky charm or have a particular ‘lucky’ routine you followed when playing?
AP: I was fond of lucky coins when things were going well. I suppose today (Friday the 13th) is one of my superstitious days, but when I won the Masters I drew number 13 so that wasn’t all that bad. I never had a routine though. It never overwhelmed me.
K: When it comes to backyard BBQs, are you more of a hamburger guy, a hot dog guy, or a steak guy?
AP: I love hot dogs and I really love a good well cooked out hamburger with cheese melted on it and a good toasted bun. Delicious. It gets my mouth watering just thinking about it!