The truly regal affair was widely considered to be the most spectacular dinner in official Washington in the past 10 years. Palmer’s name on the guest list added a dash of grit and grace to a roll that included Vice President Dick Cheney, Nancy Reagan, Peyton Manning and violinist Itzhak Perlman.
The Palmers received elegant gold-rimmed invitations (hand-penned by a calligrapher and then engraved) in April. The gala dinner May 7 is the highlight of a two-day extravaganza in which Palmer dined at the head table with President George W. Bush and Queen Elizabeth, gave putting lessons to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts at the highest court in the land, and was feted as one of just six life-time Tour Achievement winners at the new clubhouse at the TPC at Sawgrass.
“Even for Arnold Palmer, the last two days have been remarkable,” says Palmer spokesman Doc Giffin. “Both Arnold and Kit had a splendid time at the White House dinner honoring Queen Elizabeth. It was a very special evening and they were thrilled to be invited.”
If it was a national A-list that scored one of just 130 invitations to the dinner, then Palmer has vaulted to the A-list of the A-list. He was chosen to sit at the main table with both President Bush and Queen Elizabeth and guests Nancy Reagan, Alma Powell (wife of Colin Powell), Tricia Lott (wife of U.S. Sen. Trent Lott), Ashley Manning (wife of Indianapolis Colt quarterback Peyton Manning), CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz, and Chief Justice Roberts.
The five-course dinner included “spring pea soup with fern leaf lavender,” “saddle of spring lamb” and three different wines. The dinner was the first, and probably will be the only, white-tie event of the Bush presidency.
The Palmers were up early to enjoy another memorable meeting the day after the dinner. Kit Palmer, who is a personal friend with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, accepted her friend’s invitation to see the Supreme Court. While there, Palmer gave putting lessons to a trio of renown rules sticklers who might be hiding snazzy golf shirts beneath their black robes.
“He was putting on the carpet in Chief Justice Roberts’s office and giving some pointers to Roberts, Kennedy and former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who, incidentally, is the only Supreme Court Justice to ever score a hole-in-one,” Giffin says.
From there, the Palmers flew to Jacksonville, Florida, where Palmer was set to attend a black-tie dinner at grand opening of the new clubhouse at the TPC at Sawgrass, home of the Tournament Player’s Championship. Palmer, one of just three living recipients of the Tour’s Lifetime Achievement Award, will address the gathering.
Besides Palmer, only five other men have ever been deemed worthy of the award since it was first bestowed in 1995. The others are Pete Dye, Jackie Burke Jr., Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen.
Following the whirlwind two days, the Palmers flew to Bay Hill Club in Orlando to do one of the few things he enjoys more than dining with royalty.
Palmer golfed with friends.