Arnold Palmer News: Archives
Palmer to pilot his last flight
January 27, 2011
Golf Digest – Long before Arnold Palmer piloted his first aircraft, in 1956, he was aware of the Newtonian law, "What goes up must come down." On Jan. 31, the rule will have slightly sadder, more literal implications. When Palmer, 81, pilots his Cessna Citation 10 jet from Palm Springs to Orlando that morning, it will be his last flight as pilot. His license expires that day, and Palmer has elected not to have it renewed.
"I'll still be flying in my plane as much as always, just not in the cockpit," says Palmer. "Flying has been one of the great things in my life. It's taken me to the far corners of the world. I met thousands of people I otherwise wouldn't have met. And I even got to play a little golf along the way."
Golf notwithstanding, aviation has always been Palmer's most passionate vocation. Palmer took his first flying lessons in his hometown of Latrobe, Pa., and in 1966 graduated from prop planes to the jets that for many tour players today are a standard mode of transportation -- as passengers, not pilots. Palmer's fly-bys when departing from tournaments were a distinctive signature throughout the 1960s and '70s, and his versatility as a pilot was matched by several remarkable achievements. In 1969, Palmer piloted a Boeing 747 before the aircraft had gone into commercial service. In 1976, he set a round-the-world speed record that still stands. Taking off from Denver in a Lear 36 and heading east, Palmer circumnavigated the globe in 57 hours, 25 minutes and 42 seconds.
"The people there when Arnold took off were still there when he returned," laughs Doc Giffin, Palmer's longtime assistant and chronicler of Palmer's aviation exploits. The flight included brief refueling stops in Boston, Paris, Tehran, Sri Lanka, Jakarta, Manila, Wake Island and Honolulu. "The stops were brief, but Arnold had time to ride an elephant in Sri Lanka, and in Manila he was given a gift from President Ferdinand Marcos that he still has."
Palmer continued to fly the Cessna Citation 10 -- the fastest non-military aircraft in the world -- regularly in recent years. When he relinquishes his wings, he will have logged just shy of a staggering 20,000 hours in the cockpit.
-- Guy Yocom
View the Golf Digest Exclusive Photo Slideshow
Posted by scurry at 10:07 AM
March 29, 2010
The Backspin Issue: 1960
As Ben Hogan was making a begrudging exit from and Jack Nicklaus a grand entrance onto golf's main stage, Arnold Palmer was front and center as the game's soaring, incandescent figure
By Curt Sampson - Golf Digest
Fifty years have not dimmed the fun of remembering 1960, golf's golden year. Eras collided. A star was born. The unlikely and the absurd took center stage, and then, just in time, they left. A moody brooder with atrocious karma nearly won the Masters. A nightclub singer almost won the U.S. Open. Something a mere writer said to a player in the middle of the year's most dramatic event made a difference in its outcome. In Scotland in July, a well-known American pro received the news that the never-rained-out British Open had been rained out by firing his wet shoes and a couple of Wilson Staff irons across the St. Andrews locker room. Even the USGA added a bizarre note. As an experiment, the men in blue blazers gelded the out-of-bounds penalty. In '60, it was distance only. In other words, a ball hit over the fence meant only that you had to re-tee and get one in play -- and you were lying two, not three.
Ultimately, the candlepower of the brightest star in golf history shone through the crazy subplots. The 1960 season was Arnold Palmer's year, and his ascendancy represented a dramatic change from the way the previous Greatest Player did business. Ben Hogan had considerable appeal, of course; not for nothing had Hollywood made a movie of his life while he was still living it. But Hogan kept his concentration mask on until the trophy presentation, only then showing the cameras and fans two rows of beautiful teeth. But from the moment Arnie arrived in the parking lot, he winced and grinned as the moment demanded, and he was on TV, while Ben belonged to the newsreels. The Hawk did not care for Palmer (the feeling was mutual) and would have preferred to be succeeded at the top by his acolyte, Ken Venturi. Perhaps the major shock of 1960 was that the limping, 47-year-old Hogan played as if he did not want to be succeeded at all.
Enter the wild card, an Ohio State undergrad and Phi Gamma Delta brother who came onstage with sportswriter adjectives attached so securely that they seemed to be part of his name. Beefy, burly, stocky, blond, crew-cut Jack Nicklaus took a break from his sophomore year and the beer blasts at the frat house to play a little golf. Palmer knew the kid, having played an exhibition with him in 1958, with Arnie shooting 62 to Jack's 68. That was about right. Palmer had just won that year's Masters and could give just about anyone in the world a couple of shots a side. Two years later, however, beefy-burly-stocky had only gotten better and more experienced. He had won the 1959 U.S. Amateur and had played in the U.S. Open three times and the Masters once.
It was as if Palmer stood at the center of a teeter-totter in 1960, with the grim gray man at one end and the heavyset youth on the other. The avatars of three overlapping periods, each had a compelling persona and personal history. It all set up so perfectly. The performers did not disappoint.
Tour rookie Al Geiberger played well at the Pensacola Open in March and found himself in the final group with the game's hottest player. "I was awestruck," Geiberger recalled years later. "I just thought, 'You can't do that in golf.' "
After a ho-hum start, Palmer came to the ninth green and assumed the position: knees touching, pigeon toes almost touching, shoulders so hunched they almost contacted his ears, giant paws encircling a Wilson 8802 bearing hammer and vice marks. Then the wristy slap shot at the hole: suddenly, four birdies fell in a row, about 60 feet worth of putts. Informed on the penultimate tee that he needed two more birdies to win, the genius holed from 17 feet on 17 and from 32 feet on 18. It was Palmer's third consecutive win and fourth win of the young season. He had banked a mind-boggling $24,266.86. He played two more tournaments, then went to Augusta for a week of practice. He wanted to get used to a new putter.
But the 1960 Masters must really be relived through the dark of eyes of Venturi. The son of San Francisco won the Crosby in January, but he would have traded a hundred grip-and-grins with Bing for one with Bobby Jones. As a 24-year-old amateur in 1956, he led the Masters by four going into the last round, then contrived to shoot 80 to lose by one to Jack Burke Jr.
His tragic Augusta opera continued in '58. Locked in a final-round duel with Palmer, with whom he was paired, Ken had to endure a delay near the 12th green while Palmer and a rules official went back and forth. Was Arnold's ball embedded? Was it in the bunker? Could he, should he, play another ball? Arthur Lacey of the R&A said no, maybe, and OK. Long story short, Arnold made a 5 with his original ball and a par 3 with the alternate. Venturi was sure the 5 would count, which would give him a one-shot lead. But before Palmer putted for eagle on No. 13, an official whispered that he should mark down a par on 12. Arnie made the eagle putt. Ken, suddenly three behind instead of one ahead, missed a couple of short ones on the way in and finished fourth. An hour or so later, Doug Ford, the '57 champ, helped the new king into a green jacket.
"I'm not bitter, and I'm not saying I would have won," Venturi recalled. "But the 1958 Masters was a big deal because neither Arnold nor I had won a major yet."
That Palmer and Venturi were neck and neck going into the final round of the 1960 Masters surprised no one. But one shot off the lead was -- who the hell? Hogan? Statistically the worst putter in the tournament, Ben compensated for his adult-onset yips by hitting more greens in regulation than anyone -- he would miss only 10 of the 72. But the grace and accuracy of his striking could not overcome his butterfly stroke on the greens. "It is hard to recall a player of his class ever putting so poorly," mused Herbert Warren Wind in Sports Illustrated. "Perhaps Vardon in his 50s." Hogan shot 76 and tied for sixth.
Nicklaus also had a good-hit, no-putt tournament -- but still tied for low amateur and T-13 on rounds of 75-71-72-75. It's simplifying things only a little to say that at the end, it came down again to Venturi, the man who idolized Hogan, and Palmer, who disliked him. The friction had started in Augusta a few years before, the day Arnold played a practice round with Burke, Dow Finsterwald and the Hawk. Afterward, Hogan ignored protocol and sat at a different table at lunch and insulted young Arnold again by asking in a loud-enough-to-overhear voice, "This Palmer -- how did he get in the Masters?"
In the final round Palmer snapped his drive on the first tee so far left he was in the ninth fairway -- pretty much how he played in his practice round with Hogan -- but then threaded a long iron through and around pines to about 12 feet from the hole. Made the putt. That's how he got into the Masters.
When Venturi holed what he thought was the winning putt -- on the 18th, from 12 inches, for par -- he stared into the hole for a long second or two. He had shot 70, the day's low round, and led the tournament at five under. Palmer had four holes left and a one-shot deficit. A driver and 1-iron got him over the pond on 15, but he could only manage a par. On the 16th, a lucky two-putt; on 17, he hit another mediocre iron shot, 35 feet from the hole, which was cut far right. But then, just like at Pensacola, the angels sang. After the crowd hushed, the somber Palmer settled into his rigor mortis putting stance -- and backed off. Deep breaths, the overheated gallery again quiet as mice -- and he backed off again. Finally, the star struck. With its last fraction of energy, the ball fell gently right, and in. Pandemonium, and the score was tied.
Hanging In There: Palmer was frustrated
for three rounds at Cherry Hills but rallied
from a seven-shot deficit with a 65. (John G.
Zimmerman/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
After exhaling L&M smoke in the middle of the 18th fairway, Palmer hit a gorgeous 6-iron almost in the hole. Venturi watched on TV in the Butler Cabin as his nemesis, destiny's darling, holed from six feet, for a birdie-birdie finish and the win.
In last year's HBO documentary about the 1960 U.S. Open, "Back Nine at Cherry Hills," several of the principals spoke candidly about themselves and each other.
Palmer on Hogan: "The chatter at the tournament was this was going to be his last appearance & He was not a great guy. He was a great player."
Nicklaus on his first year at Ohio State, which was the first year he didn't play basketball: "I gained 50 pounds. I tried to drink all the beer in Columbus."
Palmer on Nicklaus' chances: "He was an amateur. I discounted him."
Nicklaus on Hogan, with whom he was paired for Saturday's concluding double round: "He was past the prime of his career. But he was not past the prime of the way he hit a golf ball."
Hogan died in 1997, so he could not participate (and wouldn't have anyway), but his 1983 reminiscence for CBS is still affecting, no matter how many times you've seen it. "I find myself waking up at night thinking of that shot right today," he said, about his wedge to the 71st green at Cherry Hills. Tears stood in his eyes, and his voice descended to a whisper. "There isn't a month that goes by that that doesn't cut my guts out."
The epic '60 U.S. Open was arguably golf's greatest-ever tournament, mostly because of who won it and how, and partly due to the identities and back stories of the dozen men who damn well could have won if only someone hadn't started a movie camera at the top of their backswings. Historians and those of a certain age will remember the faces and names of Mike Souchak, Julius Boros, Dow Finsterwald, Jack Fleck, Jerry Barber and the darkest dark horse, singer/golfer Don Cherry, and how they managed not to win this crazy tournament. The lead changed hands 12 times in the final round. With two holes left, it came down to the three immortals: Palmer, Hogan and Nicklaus.
Hogan, who played sparingly at 47,
didn't threaten at Augusta. (Time Life
Up until his violent strike on the first tee in the final round, Arnold's most significant shot had been his tee ball on 14 during round two, which he hit O.B. right by something like 50 yards. But he lay only two after he whacked another one, thanks to the rule change. Some highlight. After three rounds the Masters champion stood two over par, seven shots behind the leader, Souchak, and going nowhere. After a brief lunch break during which he definitely did not get the encouragement he was looking for, Palmer hit the signature shot of the tournament and perhaps of his career, a balls-out driver over a creek, through high, dry rough, and onto the fringe of the 346-yard first hole. Birdie. Then birdie-birdie-birdie, and here we go again.
To the dozen other players in the hunt, Arnie's charge was like fajitas being served at another table. The only competitors not distracted by the sizzle were playing together two groups ahead. Both Hogan and Nicklaus had shot 69 in the morning and were getting along famously. Jack took the lead after 12 holes, then, on 13, in a miscue he will rue forever, he decided to hit a tap-in over a poorly repaired ball mark, and missed. Hogan's turn: He gained a share of the lead on 15 when he finally made a putt (he hadn't missed a green all day), and he came to 17 tied with Fleck and Palmer. And then he hit the shot that would forever cut his guts out, a pitching wedge third to the par 5 that spun off the front of the green and into the water.
Palmer played smart ball down the stretch, preserving his 65 for a two-shot win over Nicklaus. He threw his hat and grinned and looked to the sky. He left the country the next day. Arnie was going to St. Andrews to play in his first British Open and to win his third major in a row.
The new king's new set of fans could not miss his love of the game. Yes, Hogan had riveted Scotland in '53, in his first and only British Open appearance. But while Hogan hit hundreds of balls to learn the punches and under-the-wind bumps necessary for successful links golf, Palmer adapted quickly, even joyfully. When the situation called for it, he hit 1-irons gripped down to the steel and left his wedge in the bag.
But others had more experience with this game. Two of them, Roberto De Vicenzo of Argentina and Australian Kelvin David George Nagle, practically ran away from the field Wednesday and Thursday. Roberto led Kel by two after his 67-67, and Kel led everyone else by five. Palmer's 71-70 left him seven shots behind going into Friday's double round. His comeback -- by now it seemed inevitable -- featured a birdie 4 on the 14th, the Long Hole, where De Vicenzo hit his tee shot on top of the stone border wall to the right and out-of-bounds and made 7. As the wind gusted and the gray sky began to boil, Arnold three-putted the Road Hole green for the third time in a row. The leader, Nagle, one-putted it for the third consecutive time.
After Nagle holed out on the 18th for par and a two-shot lead on De Vicenzo and a four-shot advantage on Palmer, the heavens opened, turning the Valley of Sin into a lagoon. The R&A postponed the final round at 3 p.m., which infuriated Our Hero, who had confidence and momentum and had picked up three shots on the lead with his 70. "Drat!" Arnold said, or some variant of drat, and threw his shoes and clubs in the suddenly quiet locker room.
Fast forward to round four, and Palmer in a pickle: two down to Nagle, two to play, and his ball over the green and nearly on the Road. Arnold putted up the hill to four feet, and hit a wedge to four feet on Home, two brilliant shots when he needed them most. His par-birdie finish for 68 gave him 279...and second place. Nagle won by one. "It was the biggest disappointment of my life," Palmer told me 30 years later.
Jay Hebert won the PGA Championship at Firestone; Palmer finished T-7 and Hogan missed the 54-hole cut after a third-round 78. Nicklaus, on the other hand, finished his competitive year with a crescendo. His 66-67-68-68 at the World Amateur Team event at Merion was 18 shots below what Hogan had shot there in winning the U.S. Open in 1950.
The crystal clarity of hindsight reveals what glory and disaster lay ahead for these three. Hogan faded from the competitive scene after 1960 yet maintained a presence in the game as a manufacturer of clubs. Thanks to TV and IMG -- and his own brilliance -- Brand Palmer exploded. He would win the next two British Opens but never another U.S. Open and never the PGA Championship that would have completed his résumé. The inevitable high-noon showdown between Arnold and Nicklaus occurred in the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Palmer, using a Hogan driver, lost a playoff to the relentless young man from Ohio. Golf's Ali and Frazier remained locked in rivalry for the remainder of the decade.
What had golf in 1960 been besides great entertainment? Did it mean anything beyond that? Certainly, it sharpened interest in Arnold, and raised awareness of Jack. But surely a deeper conclusion could be drawn from watching Hogan limp up the hill to the final green at Cherry Hills: Time, not the other guys, is an athlete's real enemy.
One Down, Three To Go: After winning his second Masters title, Palmer received congratulations from 1959 winner Art Wall. (Augusta National/Getty Images)
Posted by scurry at 10:58 AM
NEWPORT DUNES AND INNSBROOK MAKE GOLF DIGEST'S BEST NEW COURSES 2009
December 14, 2009
The Arnold Palmer Design Company is very proud of Newport Dunes G.C.
and Innsbrook Golf & Boat Club
making Golf Digest's list of America's Best New Courses of 2009. The annual ranking, which is in its 27th year, will be featured in the January 2010 issue of Golf Digest, on newsstands now. The complete rankings can be viewed online now at www.golfdigest.com/rankings/courses/new/2010/01/bestnewcourses
Posted by scurry at 04:44 PM
PALMER DESIGNED COURSES DOT GOLF DIGEST'S TOP 75 GOLF RESORTS 2009
September 22, 2009
Golf Digest magazine's biannual feature, "The 75 Best Golf Resorts in North America," published in the October 2009 issue, cites eight Arnold Palmer designed resorts amongst the prestigious list.
In the number one spot sits Pebble Beach, which has been at the top of the last three of four rankings in what is considered by many as one of the most definitive rankings in golf. Ratings are based on Golf Digest's 900 plus course ranking panelists who score the resorts and courses.
Arnold Palmer and his design company recently gave Pebble Beach a small facelift, which lengthened the legendary course to 7,014 yds, for the upcoming fifth hosting of the U.S. Open Championship in June 2010. To read more about the changes visit the Kingdom Magazine Issue 14 article Pebble Beach.
Also making the list is Palmer's home course, the Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, FL, home of PGA Tour event the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard. The recent renovations to Palmer's classic course were implemented with his expert vision throughout the entire process. For more information about the changes to Bay Hill please read Palmer and His Design Company Renovate Bay Hill Course.
Arnold Palmer Design Company golf resorts that made the list:
1. PEBBLE BEACH RESORT/INN AT SPANISH BAY (3)*
Score: 89.17 Contact & Directions: pebblebeach.com, 800-654-9300 Room Rate:** $595 New & Notable: Site of the 2010 U.S. Open, Pebble has been strengthened and lengthened to more than 7,000 yards. At $495, the green fee is stratospheric -- but check its website for money-saving packages.
18. THE RITZ-CARLTON, HALF MOON BAY (CALIF.) (28)
Score: 78.77 Contact & Directions: ritzcarlton.com, 650-712-7000 Room Rate: $419 New & Notable: Arthur Hills' super-scenic Ocean Course is being groomed to accept links-style run-up shots. This project concludes before the end of the year. The second course is an Arnold Palmer design.
- T-38. FOUR SEASONS RESORT AVIARA (44)
Carlsbad, Calif. Score: 72.67 Contact & Directions: fourseasons.com, 760-603-6800 Room Rate: $395 New & Notable: Greenside bunkers are filled with high-quality silica sand, and the redesigned Aviara clubhouse opened in December, completing the resort's modernization project.
49. BARTON CREEK (47)
Austin Score: 70.91 Contact & Directions: bartoncreek.com, 800-336-6158 Room Rate: $210 New & Notable: Fazio Canyons, one of two Tom Fazio courses at the resort, was the site of U.S. Open local qualifying. Arnold Palmer and Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore designed the other two courses.
55. RESORT SEMIAHMOO (NR)
Blaine, Wash. Score: 69.71 Contact & Directions: semiahmoo.com, 800-770-7992 Room Rate: $149 New & Notable: Loomis Trail was the site of the NCAA Division II Men's Golf Championship in May, and tee boxes on Arnold Palmer's Semiahmoo course have been reconstructed and enlarged.
- 56. LA QUINTA (CALIF.) RESORT& CLUB/PGA WEST (42)
Score: 69.69 Contact & Directions:laquintaresort.com, 760-564-4111 Room Rate: $199 New & Notable: Three courses (out of five) have been updated: new GPS systems, bunkers and tee boxes at the Stadium and Nicklaus courses and a few new greens on the Mountain.
58. TURTLE BAY RESORT (64) Oahu, Hawaii Score: 69.29 Contact & Directions: turtlebayresort.com, 808-293-6000 Room Rate: $371 New & Notable: The practice area at the George Fazio Course has more than doubled to 16,000 square feet to accommodate more golfers. The Palmer Course's range is even bigger.
69. BAY HILL CLUB & LODGE (74)
Orlando Score: 67.74 Contact & Directions: bayhill.com, 888-422-9445 Room Rate: $225 New & Notable: Home to Arnold Palmer and his popular PGA Tour stop, the course is getting a $2 million upgrade (tees, greens and bunkers) to be completed Oct. 1.
Posted by scurry at 05:16 PM
Try My Timeless Tips
August 18, 2009
20 All-Time Favorites That Still Do The Trick Plus 5 Bonus Tips
| With Peter Morrice | September 2009
I've seen a lot of changes during my time in golf, and one is that the teaching of the game has gotten complicated. If you do a handful of things correctly--like take the club away without breaking your wrists and keep your head still throughout the swing--you can play pretty well without too much thought. When I was 4 years old my dad took my hands and set them on a club and said, "Now don't you ever change that." And basically I haven't. With all the ways we have now of analyzing the swing, you can make the game very difficult--and not much fun. Here I give you my favorite tips from my old books and articles. I believe they're as true today as the day I first used them.
~ Arnold Palmer
View the slideshow at GolfDigest.com
Posted by scurry at 03:50 PM
Birthday Greetings For Arnie
August 12, 2009
Fans and friends offer memories to celebrate Arnold's 80th
Golf Digest - September 2009
In conjunction with Arnold Palmer's 80th birthday on Sept. 10, the USGA is collecting Palmer memories from friends and fans of the King. Visit usgamuseum.com/arnoldpalmer to view the stories, including the video described in the first item, or to add your memory.
Photo by Walter Iooss Jr. September 2009
CALLING ON CHRISTMAS
From Peter Deeks
I graduated from college in spring 1967, and on Christmas Eve that year four friends came to my parents' house, where I was still living, to drink some beer and catch up. We got to talking about who we had wished Merry Christmas, and someone asked if I had done so to Arnold, who was (and still is) my idol. I said, "No, but I will right now," at which point I phoned AT&T information in Latrobe, Pa.
I asked for a listing for an A.D. [Arnold Daniel] Palmer. I heard, "I have no listing for A.D. Palmer, but I have an Arnold Palmer."
I dialed the numbers and heard, "Hello?"
"Is Arnold there?"
"It's Arnold speaking."
I immediately dispatched one of my friends to an extension phone, as I needed corroboration for this call. I said it was Peter Deeks from Toronto, Canada, calling, and I added, "I hope I'm not bothering you."
He said, "No, I'm putting presents under the tree for Winnie, Amy and Peggy."
We talked about many subjects, but the best was me telling Arnold how to resolve issues in the PGA between the club professionals and the touring pros. The conversation carried on for 12 minutes, according to the bill I received from Bell Canada. The bill also showed the commencement time of the call at 1:06 a.m. Christmas Day.
In December 1989, my brother Jim and family came to our house for Christmas dinner. He gave me two presents and said, "Open the small one first." I did so, and it was a video to be watched "immediately." On comes Arnie saying, "Hi, I'd like to wish Peter, Wendy and Sarah and Jocelyn Deeks a very Merry Christmas. ... Peter, do me a favor and call me again, but don't make it on Christmas Eve, OK?"
I was stunned. Then I was to open the large present, and it was a cue card with the above message and signed, "Arnold Palmer."
Jim, a TV director, had been assigned to do a TV promo in June 1989 for the Cadillac Skins Game being played in Toronto. He'd prepared the cue card in advance, and Arnold readily agreed to do it when the serious work was completed.
The cue card has been framed and adorns a wall of our family room.
A LIFETIME SUPPLY OF SHIRTS
From Dottie Pepper
My favorite Arnold Palmer memory didn't even take place on a golf course.
I had been invited for cocktails at the home of Charlie and Marilyn Mechem [Charlie Mechem is a former commissioner of the LPGA Tour], Arnold's next-door neighbors in La Quinta. Arnold insisted that he and I walk next door and check out a new shipment in his garage.
He had recently received word that his shirt manufacturer would no longer be making his signature hard-collar shirts, but he had been sent a lifetime supply in every color. The boxes were stacked to the ceiling, and he was just so darn proud! He didn't believe anyone would do something that thoughtful for him.
That's just Arnold.
THE PAYING CUSTOMERS
From Bob Hammel
While in the U.S. Army in West Berlin, I was lucky enough to play in the German Open and meet Arnie at a dinner for him, Seve Ballesteros and Tony Jacklin.
What I remember most, however, was after the last 18 holes, when Arnie was surrounded by fans seeking autographs. A member of his entourage came in to say that his private plane was ready to take off and they had to go. Arnie did not bat an eye but said, "Have the plane wait; these are the people who pay for that plane."
FROM GOLFER TO BROADCASTER
From Jim Rohr
As Arnie's friend, I have had the pleasure of observing and interacting with him in various settings. Of course, nothing beats spending time with him on the golf course. During one particularly enjoyable round, I partnered with Jim Nantz to take on Arnie and my brother Tom. We had a blast, and our best-ball match went back and forth until we came to Laurel Valley's signature 18th hole, a spectacular -- and reachable -- par 5.
After lacing their drives, Jim and Arnie found the green in two. Tom and I are serving as spectators at this point, and we watched Jim roll his approach putt toward the hole. Unfortunately, Jim didn't leave himself a gimme.
Already up a hole, Arnie looked to end the match, but his eagle putt stopped at the lip of the cup. That left Jim, who was getting a stroke on the hole, staring at a yips-inducing five-footer to bring us even.
Seizing the moment -- and turning the tables on Jim, who has captivated so many of us with his distinctive broadcasts -- Arnie lifted the grip of his putter to his chin, as if it were a microphone. Then, in a perfect golf-announcer parody, he described the situation.
"Jim Nantz is about to stroke the most important putt of his life," Arnie started. Jim had to back away as we all broke out in laughter. "It's a treacherous five-footer," the King continued, "and he'll need to play a subtle right-to-left break."
Composing himself, Jim stroked the putt -- and it slipped by on the right. He grimaced and looked at Arnie: "You misread that!"
"Hey," Arnie responded. "I was being the broadcaster, not your caddie." As with most rounds, we finished with a laugh -- and by paying Arnie his winnings.
THE FINAL U.S. OPEN
From Rocco Mediate
I was fortunate to be paired with Mr. Palmer at the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont, which was his last U.S. Open.
Friday afternoon, we were walking up the 18th fairway toward the green. I was about 50 yards or so behind him, just taking it all in: huge galleries as far as you could see and applause as loud as it could possibly be, just to acknowledge and admire the man they all loved and had cheered for so long. It didn't matter what he shot; it mattered to them that he was there, and they appreciated it.
When I putted out on 18 I went to him, shook his hand and said, "You made all this possible for golf -- this is all because of you." At that we both were overcome with emotion.
A PAUSE FOR TEARS
From Archie Ellis, a volunteer at Palmer's Final U.S. Open
I found myself assigned to shepherd Arnold Palmer from the raucous, thundering and consistent adulation of the 18th fairway and green to his first interview position behind the grandstands at the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont.
It was not a long journey -- maybe 100 yards -- but it was long enough for him to stop me after moving through the tunnel, but short of our intended location, by saying, "Give me a minute, please." At that point, he turned, walked a couple of feet to a large tree, placed his face on the back of his hand against the trunk, and with his back to me, quietly let the tears flow for a minute or so, his shoulders rising and falling with each wave of emotion. There were only one or two other people with us, but we all stood silently to give him his time.
Finally, his caddie walked over and put his hand on Palmer's back, whispering in his ear. The great man straightened up, wiped the tears away before turning back to us, and nodded to him. He turned to me and said, "Let's go," and we walked to an interview station for a USGA taping prior to the melee at the media center a few minutes later.
I handed him off at that time to someone else and went on my way, but that one moment of watching him grieve the end of his era has remained with me. It was so personal and involved a man of such greatness that it bordered on the religious, but he would probably object to that comparison. Arnold Palmer's greatness lies in his very real, very tangible humanity, and there was no stronger evidence of that than watching those brief tears fall in recognition of the limitations placed upon him by time.
THE SUPREME PUTTING CONTEST
From Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
I was privileged to meet Arnold Palmer at the U.S. Supreme Court. He knew Justice [Anthony] Kennedy, and the two of them came by my chambers to say hello. I kept a putting device and a couple of putters there, and we decided to have a wee putting contest. You do not have to guess who won. It was Arnie Palmer, of course. But what a treat!
THANKS FROM TIGER
From Tiger Woods
I know I can visit Arnold for advice or a reassuring smile anytime. To have a role model like him makes us all try a little harder. I'm certain much success and friendship lie ahead.
Thank you, Arnold.
Posted by scurry at 03:33 PM
COVER STORY: Palmer in his Prime
As Arnold turns 80, it's time to savor the skill and charisma that changed golf
By Tom Callahan
Golf Digest -
Photos (clockwise from left): AP Photos (3), GD Resource Center
By Tom Callahan
Golf Digest -
Records speak for themselves, but Arnold Palmer's splendid record speaks too softly. As he turns 80 on September 10, how important he is has obscured how great he was.
Palmer didn't invent golf, just grace and golf, just television and golf. Raymond Floyd says, "Arnold was the epitome of a superstar," even before that word was coined. "He set the standard for how superstars in every sport ought to be, in the way he has always signed autographs, in the way he has always made time for everyone." In his patience. In his decency.
"On the golf course," Floyd says, "all I ever saw was a mass of people. I saw, but I didn't see. He was able to focus in on everyone in the gallery individually. It wasn't fake." He was able to make eye contact with the entire world.
Once, he was a tremendous driver. "Oh, man," Floyd says, "one of the best drivers of the golf ball in history. Long and straight." Once, he charged putts like he charged everything. "I don't think," Floyd says, "I ever saw him leave a putt short."
"I always thought Arnold was a good iron player, too," says Jack Nicklaus, who stood in the rain and watched Palmer hitting irons even before Jack knew who he was. This was outside Toledo in 1954. Neither the 24-year-old amateur champion on the range nor the 14-year-old dreamer on the hill had any idea they would someday be hyphenated.
"I just saw a young, strong guy," Nicklaus says, "who hit the ball hard, beat it hard -- beat it into the ground." A beater of the ball originally, Palmer became a swinger of the club eventually. He was knocking down 9-irons and 7-irons under the storm. Nicklaus was drenched to the skin. "Oh, that's Arnold Palmer," he said later.
From then on, Jack followed Arnold from afar, just like everyone else in and out of golf, as old black telephones on copy desks in sports departments jangled with one question: "What did Arnie do today?"
But for a solitary stroke in regulation twice, he could have been live after three legs of the Grand Slam in 1960 and 1962. After winning the Masters and U.S. Open in '60, he lost the British Open by one shot to Australian Kel Nagle, who required nine fewer putts. (Getting some of his own back, as the British say, Palmer took the next two Open Championships on the trot, the second by six strokes over Nagle.)
In '62, of course, he lost the U.S. Open playoff to Nicklaus at Oakmont between Masters and British triumphs. From '60 to '63, Arnold won 29 tournaments and finished second 10 times. During that blitz, he had 66 top 10s on the PGA Tour. Tiger Woods isn't the first golfer who ever dominated.
A smaller moment in '62 has stayed with Nicklaus. "It was at the Phoenix Open," he says, "the first time we played as pros in the same group. I needed a birdie on the last hole to finish second to him in the tournament. I'll never forget coming to the 18th tee."
"Relax," Palmer whispered, "you can birdie this hole. C'mon, it's important."
"I did birdie it," Jack says, "finishing second, making a whopping $2,300. Oh, by the way, he nipped me that week by 12 shots."
After beating Nicklaus and Dave Marr by six in the 1964 Masters, shrugging his strong shoulders into a fourth green jacket, Palmer stopped winning majors at the now-astonishing age of 34. However, because he was second to Jack at Augusta the following spring and remained a constant on U.S. Open leader boards for the next 10 years, nobody noticed.
But for a solitary stroke in regulation thrice, Palmer would have won three U.S. Opens from 1962 through 1966, which would have brought his total to four in seven years. If it sounds like he's losing a lot of playoffs (to Nicklaus at Oakmont, to Julius Boros at The Country Club, to Billy Casper after the cataclysmic collapse at Olympic), consider that Arnold won 14 playoffs on tour, the same number as Jack. Nobody has won more.
Gary Player, who with Dow Finsterwald lost a three-man Masters playoff to Palmer in 1962, says, "Jack won majors for 25 years; I won them for 20; Arnold won them for six. But because he was so charismatic, because he did so much for golf, because the people loved him so dearly, they thought he was still winning. And, you know what? He was." He was winning hearts.
Although Palmer went through warehouses full of golf clubs, Player remembers one No. 1 wood in particular. "It was the most wicked-looking driver you ever saw in your life," he says. "It must have had 11 degrees of loft. Well, he needed it. He was a very shut-faced player. I tell you, he could hit that thing so straight and so far. Arnold was such a beautiful driver, such a wonderful putter. I've seen other players who weren't afraid to knock the ball five and six feet past, who trusted themselves to hole those comebackers one after another after another. But none of them could touch Palmer." He was the inventor.
Famously, he was adventurous. "Just as he won some tournaments taking unnecessary gambles," Player says, "he lost some tournaments taking unnecessary gambles. But that was Arnold." With a hitch of his trousers and a whirlybird swing, he could make a triple bogey proud. "That was part of the endearment," Gary says. "He did absolutely everything the same damn way. It wasn't his nature to lag a putt because it wasn't his nature to lag, period. He woke up charging, charging, charging. He fell out of bed with all this great charisma, just fell out of bed with it."
Men admired Palmer. Women adored him.
Photo: Golf Digest Resource Center
Finsterwald, loser of the last match-play PGA (1957), winner of the first stroke-play PGA (1958), came into this world exactly four days before Palmer. Four score and four days ago... Dow and Arnie christened their uncommon friendship in 1948, when the Ohio University golf team made a swing through the South and stopped off at Wake Forest.
"I don't know, I guess we just liked a lot of the same things," Finsterwald says, "like cowboy movies. Our wives were very compatible, too, which was lucky, especially in those scrambling years at the beginning when we'd sometimes throw in together on the road. But the thing Arnie and I truly had in common, the thing both of us enjoyed most of all, was playing golf. That may sound funny, but you'd be surprised how many good players, how many pros, weren't able to enjoy it nearly as much as we did. To us it was an avocation as well as a vocation. I think of him as the greatest amateur-professional who ever lived. By that I mean he never stopped playing the game for the love of it, like an amateur. Sure, he liked making a nice living. But he loved to play. Still does."
It was at a Finsterwald tribute in Athens, Ohio, where the teenage Nicklaus first shook Palmer's hand on a tee. "Arnold shot 62 playing with Jack that day," Dow says, and he tried to shoot 62, to impress the kid. Finsterwald can still see the look in both of their eyes. The look of eagles.
COMING HOME TO LATROBE
Palmer got started a bit late on tour, at the age of 25, winning the Canadian Open straightaway. But the three years in the Coast Guard, the working-man's background, the cigarette on the lip, the stern but forgiving father he called "Pap" or "Sir," and the small town of Latrobe are other necessary parts of the endearment. Especially Latrobe. The wellspring of the Palmer grace is obvious: Wherever he went over these 80 years, and he went almost everywhere in the world, he always came home to Latrobe. He's there now, in that forest-green patch of Pennsylvania, just east of Pittsburgh, just west of the Allegheny Mountains.
He's sitting at the desk in his office, gazing out the window at his childhood.
"Just where we are now," he says, "is a history in itself. When I learned to shoot a shotgun, my father and I -- he taught me -- we walked that hillside right there and shot pheasants and rabbits and squirrels, and took them down and cleaned them in the stream right over here about 200 yards away. And my mother would put them in salt water overnight, and we'd have them the next day for food.
"Right here, right on the edge of this hill, an old oak tree fell over. Like that one there. See the squirrel climbing up? The trunk was rotten -- I'll never forget this. A bunch of honeybees had moved in. Have you ever seen a honeycomb? Well, this one was full of honey. I mean, absolutely like that! [He spread his great hands like an exaggerating fisherman.] And my dad says, 'Now, Arnie, we're going to take this honey home and give it to your mother, and we're going to eat it.' But he says, 'We got to get two five-pound bags of sugar. When we take the honey out, we're going to put those two bags of sugar right there, so the bees can have their food.' By God, we did it. I was about 7 or 8 years old."
His face is creased and leathery, naturally. He's more than a little sand-blasted, to be sure. But he still has the comfortable bearing and confident look of the athlete. And sitting there smiling, especially with his eyes, he doesn't seem or sound much different than he did on the Sunday morning of the final day of the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont, when he and John Schlee were tied for the lead.
Hours before teeing off, Palmer sat around a clubhouse patio with a fine kettle of newspapermen. Among the countless times he held court this way, the Oakmont session has stood out somehow, maybe because of a gentle story he told in response to a prescient question.
Just in case an overnight downpour hadn't made the greens mushy enough, half of the sprinklers had been left on all night. Which prompted Jack Murphy of the San Diego Union to wonder, "What if somebody goes out early and shoots 63?"
(Had Murphy said 62 or 64, this would sound less like "new journalism." But he said 63.)
"If somebody does that," Palmer answered ruefully, "I can promise you one thing: The members will be mad as hell. They're not paying for 63s." Glancing down the road toward Latrobe, he added, "You know, some people around here think they can buy anything."
Being the son of an employee at Latrobe Country Club, young Arnold was always expected to make himself invisible on the property. His father, Deacon, was at least as much a course superintendent as a teaching pro, and far more tractor driver than Izod salesman. One day in the golf shop -- possibly the best day of Arnie's boyhood -- Pap ferociously lit into a member who was chewing out his son for nothing. But, generally, the boy tried to keep out from underfoot.
Their house adjoined the sixth tee. On ladies' days, with a cap pistol in a holster strapped to his hip, he leaned like Paladin against a back-yard tree and fixed his gunfighter's stare on a ditch in the distance.
"I was available to hit their drives over the hazard for a nickel," he said at Oakmont. "Some of them were slow pay." Sitting at his desk now, he laughs at that. He still hops when he laughs. "Helen Fritz," he says. (He remembers her name.) "She was my first customer. 'Arnie,' she said, 'if you hit this ball across that ditch, I'll give you a nickel.' " That was the day he turned pro.
When it came time for Schlee and Palmer to tee off at Oakmont, Murphy went out with a colleague to the first tee to find only Schlee. He was a Texan who liked to wear Hawaiian shirts because his high-water mark was a victory in the Hawaiian Open. Schlee was completely alone on the tee. No spectators, no caddies, no Palmer. He propped a ball up on a peg, clocked it with his driver and headed off down the fairway. What had just taken place took awhile to register, but, as it turned out, that wasn't Schlee's only drive at No. 1. He had walked all the way to his first ball, only to find it unplayable.
"Palmer," Murphy whispered, "is leading the Open." But Johnny Miller was already halfway to his 63.
"Tee to green," Arnold says, "I played better golf from the late '60s through the middle to late '70s than I played at any other time in my life. Won less, but played better. If my clubs were right, I thought I could do whatever I wanted to do with the golf ball. That's kind of how I felt about playing. The actual shotmaking was better from '65 to '76, '77, but I didn't make things happen as I did in the early years. Still, I don't regret a single thing. I'd have liked to win a PGA, but I had a good run."
FROM A GAME TO A SPORT
Palmer's impact on the sport, especially the selling of it in the United States, is mammoth. The simplest way to put it is, he is the one who made it a sport. It had been a game. In that mythical first foursome of American golf (Palmer, Bobby Jones, Dwight Eisenhower and Bob Hope), he is the connector to all of the others, and the captain. "Ike doesn't get nearly as much credit as he should," Palmer says, but the World Golf Hall of Fame is about to take care of that.
He has known many presidents. Richard Nixon asked his opinion about the Vietnam War. His advice amounted to: Whatever you do, don't lay up. But Ike was his friend. On the weekend of Palmer's 37th birthday, wives Winnie and Mamie conspired to spirit Eisenhower from Gettysburg to Latrobe for a surprise visit. When the bell rang and Arnie opened the front door, there stood the Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe and the 34th President of the United States, holding a little overnight bag in his hand. "We didn't play golf," Palmer says. "He couldn't play anymore. We just hung out. He was the greatest."
Arnold lost his darling Winnie to cancer in 1999, but she's still here. She's everywhere in the building. Shaking off his own cancer, he found Kit in 2005. He won the daily double. Arnie must be God's favorite golfer, too.
Eisenhower painted Palmer's picture. So did Norman Rockwell. Why wouldn't he? Millions of photographs, honors and mementos surround the place now, ranging from a Hickok Belt and a Sportsman urn to a Bill Mazeroski baseball and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Across from Arnold's desk, a couple of golf balls are mounted under glass.
At a senior event near Washington in 1986, Palmer made a hole-in-one with a 5-iron, and on the same spot a day later, he did it again. That first morning, Player was in the group ahead, waiting beside the green. "I saw him standing there," Arnold said later. "I wanted to hit a good one." Hearing that, Gary just shook his head. "He always knew how to share a moment of triumph," he said. "Yours or his. Sometimes in life, it can be very hard to find someone to share your moments of triumph."
On the third day, the national media showed up in force to see if Palmer would score another ace. It was a little like staking out a random airport on the chance Amelia Earhart might land. But it was fun. When Arnie missed the cup, everybody moaned, cheered and left.
The boy who wasn't allowed on the course owns it now. Lock, stock and a subdivision of guesthouses. He seems to own the whole town. His face is on the phone book, and his name is on the airport. Even at his age, Arnold continues to be fully qualified to pilot his jet. Every year he is checked out again for several days in simulators, where his nickname should be Flying Colors.
Arnold is pleased by today's game. He likes it. He likes Tiger. "I spent three hours one night with him early on," he says. "More than three hours, four hours. At his request. And it was good. I met his father, but I can't say I knew him."
Earl Woods, you could say, took some knowing.
"You knew him," Palmer says. "What was he like?"
Good-hearted, once you got inside the shell. Of course, it wasn't easy to get inside the shell.
"Well, you know," he says, "you can see that and feel it in Tiger, too. My father was like that."
Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Finsterwald, Floyd -- none of them are putting their feet up and stopping. But certain birthdays unleash memories. It's hard not to start adding up the scores.
"I've stayed in Arnold's house," Player says. "He's stayed in mine. He came to South Africa, and we took him down a gold mine. And his mother. I just loved his mother. She was a dear lady. And I loved his father. He was just as tough as they say, but that wasn't the whole story. As professional golfers, you know, we compete against each other our whole lives, and I tried to beat Arnold's ass in every single way I could. But you laugh together as you go, and you cry together sometimes. Arnold and I actually, physically, cried together. At the end of the day, we played for each other. Money was never the criterion. We were all playing for something better than money."
Nicklaus says, "Arnold and I wanted to beat each other's brains in, but I consider him one of my closest friends in the game. There's no question about his record and ability, but think of how much he brought to the game. The hitch of his pants. The fans. He paralleled the growth of television golf. He was just the right man at just the right time." "When I think of him," Floyd says, "I think of his hands. The greatest set of hands I've ever seen. I was on the practice tee once, hitting it a little crooked, and went right to him for help. He clamped my club in one hand like a vise and bent it just slightly at the neck. I started hitting them straight as can be. Somebody once took a picture of those hands. I've kept it."
Finsterwald says, "You know that PGA Tour slogan, 'These guys are good?' I wish they'd make a new commercial showing Retief Goosen missing that little putt at Southern Hills and then winning the U.S. Open playoff the next day. 'These guys are good -- and they are human.' That's Palmer, above all. Human."
The great Doc Giffin, dean of golf's media major-domos, is still on the job after 43 years, still serving Palmer. In the Latrobe locker room, he points out a cubicle that has been closed for 33 years. The nameplate says, "Milfred J. (Deacon) Palmer, Golf Professional-Course Superintendent, Latrobe Country Club, 1921-1976."
Nineteen-seventy-six was the year Doc's best friend, Bill Finigan, was killed in a private plane crash. Giffin and Finigan grew up together in Crafton, a suburb of Pittsburgh. After the funeral, Palmer urged Doc to take his vacation right away, to go to Bay Hill in Orlando. "Deacon came up to me and said, 'Can I go with you?' I was surprised, but grateful for the company. 'Sure,' I said."
In the middle of the flight, the tough guy turned to Doc and said, "You've lost your best friend. I'll try to be your best friend now." Two days later in Florida, Deacon had a heart attack and died.
Arnold shot 64 the day before at Bob Hope's tournament in California. Of course he withdrew.
Deacon taught Arnie respect, integrity, manners, empathy and how to grip a golf club. But the best thing he ever taught him was, when you take the honey out, put some sugar back in. That's what Palmer has done his whole life.
Posted by scurry at 03:16 PM
Editor's Letter: Arnold At 80
Join the party as we celebrate Arnie 80th birthday with stories, photos and video from the archives of Golf Digest and Golf World. Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Jerry Tarde
as well as others in the world of golf share their memories on the King.
By Jerry Tarde
Golf Digest - September 2009
Pro golfers are better at being nice guys than, say, baseball players or governors, so the standard is pretty high when someone asks, "Who's your favorite golfer?" A college kid caddieing for me last weekend in Vermont popped the question. Without hesitation, I replied, "Arnold Palmer." The caddie nodded, knowingly. On the eve of his 80th birthday, Arnie still spans the generations.
If you want to join his party, check out the digital memory book the United States Golf Association is compiling of birthday wishes and anecdotes from golfers all over (see "Birthday Greetings" or usgamuseum.com/arnoldpalmer). Here's the one I just added:
My Top One
I played golf with Arnie a couple of summers ago at Latrobe Country Club. The third hole runs along Arnold Palmer Drive -- is there a better name ever for a public road? As we walked onto the third tee, some guy driving down the road sees Arnold and brings his car to a stop. He jumps out and runs onto the course with his hand extended. "Mr. Palmer," he says, "you've been my hero forever. I grew up here in Pittsburgh, and all I ever wanted to do was shake your hand. Would you do me that honor?" Of course, Palmer shook his hand, introduced him to everybody, put his arm around his shoulder and talked to him like they were old war buddies. As the guy gets ready to leave, Arnie says, "Hey, Joe. You don't happen to have a camera, do you?" Joe says his cell phone takes pictures. So Palmer tells him to "run, get it." Joe comes back and hands me the cell phone to capture this moment. Arnie has been creating these moments his whole life -- not just now, but when he was in his prime. Common acts of human decency, so rare among the greats, always come naturally to him.
Senior Editor Peter Morrice worked with Palmer to winnow the tips he's written over the years to his "20 All-Time Best". "A few times I prompted him to tell a certain well-worn story about his father teaching him as a kid," said Morrice. "I'm sure he's repeated those stories a thousand times, but with each one he smiled and started in like he was relating it for the first time. Everybody gets a first telling with Arnold."
The very ordinariness of Palmer is what makes him so special, so appealing. Contributing Editor Tom Callahan researched our profile of "Palmer in His Prime" with trips to Latrobe and Palmer's Bay Hill Club in Orlando. "At Bay Hill the Monday night after Tiger won," Callahan e-mailed me, "I was having dinner with Doc Giffin and Bev Norwood [longtime Palmer associates] in the clubhouse. It was dusk. We looked out the window, and there was Arnold standing on the other side of the fairway holding his big, yellow Lab, Mulligan, on a leash. It wasn't a dramatic scene. It was the opposite of that. Just a picture of twilight with Arnold in the frame. It started us telling our stories about him. Some of mine are in the piece."
Posted by scurry at 01:53 PM