TOUR players on Arnold Palmer
September 07, 2009
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- September 07, 2009
On meeting Arnold the first time
The first time I ever met Arnold was at Bay Hill. We played the U.S. Junior when I was 15. He was the keynote speaker, so I got a chance to meet him and just say briefly hi, and that was it. It was quite an honor to meet Arnold Palmer. He didn't know me from Adam, but once I started winning a few tournaments and I got a chance to play in the majors as an amateur, got a chance to play with him a few times, which has been certainly one of the highlights of my life.
On what he's meant to the game
Oh, everything, are you kidding me? I mean, without his charisma, without his personality in conjunction with TV, it was just the perfect symbiotic growth. You finally have someone who has this charisma and they're capturing it on TV for the very first time. Everyone got hooked to the game of golf via TV because of Arnold.
On having to "buy" Arnold dinner while at Stanford
They were playing at the Napa Valley Inn or whatever, and he invited me to dinner. I said, OK, cool, I'll go out to dinner with Arnold Palmer. Well, tab comes, I'm not going to say, hey, Arnold, it's on me. (Arnold) goes and picks up the tab like it's no big deal. And come to find out my coach had to report me because that was a violation. I had to send (Palmer) a check. I was at El Paso for the All American, got down there, played the am-am, and I was waiting that night for his check to clear and have a fax sent to NCAA headquarters to clear me or else I couldn't play, or else I had to hop on a flight that next day during the first round of the tournament and come back to Stanford. His check cleared and I ended up winning the tournament in a playoff. (The check was) like 25 or something and change. Actually we had to go back and get the exact number or else you're not eligible.
Arnie was the first person I called when I qualified for the Masters in '91, and I asked Doc Giffin if I could play a practice round, and we got a practice round set up, and we played a great round of golf, and we walked off the 18th tee about 100 yards, and he kind of grabs my arm and pulls me over and stops, and says, "Right here. Right here." "What, Mr. Palmer?" "1961, I had a one-shot lead, I came over and shook somebody's hand, and he said 'congratulations.' I never should have said thank you; I should have said it's not over." That's when (Palmer) blocked the 7-iron right into the bunker, made double and lost to Gary Player. He was still fuming about it 30 years later.
He just has a lot of charisma and he's meant so much to this game of golf.
(Meeting Arnold for the first time was) sort of a strange feeling. I'm not one for getting wrapped up in sort of celebrities or famous people, but there is something very strange when you meet Mr. Palmer, the King. What do you say? What do you do? What do you call him? It's like meeting -- it's a bit like royalty. What do you do? What's the protocol? And how do you say sort of, "I'm a huge fan of yours," without looking like a bit of an idiot? I guess you just do it, you just say, pleasure to sort of meet you, and that's basically what I did.
DAVIS LOVE III
On most memorable Bay Hill moment
I hit the sprinkler head in front of 17 green at Bay Hill. I didn't hit it hard but I hit it hard enough -- it was cracked already, I'm making up my excuses here -- but anyway, my wedge went into and knocked the nozzle off so it was shooting a fountain (of water) and filled the bunker up. I was playing well and I made the putt for par. I was in the bunker and I made the putt for par. They had to stop play. It was awful. It was very embarrassing. So I go into the press room and I have to explain it all and I'm thinking Arnold's going to be mad. What's he going to say? And then I don't ever see him.
The next morning, I get to my locker and there's an Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Club envelope with my name on it. So I open it up and it's a bill for services from the grounds crew. It listed all the parts and they added up to $7.99 and then it said labor -- assistant greens superintendent, head greens superintendent, 1.2 hours, $125,000. Please send in a check before the end of the tournament or something like that, signed Arnold Palmer.
That made me feel better. Actually, he did say in the media that was broken and if you just barely touch those things, they'll go off and he explained how a sprinkler works. So in the paper it was like, well, Arnold says it's OK and then I got the note that says it's OK. I thought that was typical of him. He knows the players. He's always basically begged me to win his tournament. That was really nice of him to try to make me feel better and keep playing well. And then, of course, I didn't win.
On Palmer as President's Cup captain
At The Presidents Cup when he was the captain, he gave a great speech one night about how important it was to carry on the tradition, uphold the traditions of the game and how honored he was to be the captain -- the typical Arnold speech. And then at the end, he looked at me and mentioned my dad. He said, "Davis knows what I'm talking about." And to me, that in front of the team, he remembered my dad and then said I knew what he was talking about meant a lot to me. I got choked up. Both of us did.
My wife has a good memory of the first time she saw him. It was 2003 and we were dating. She was walking at the Bay Hill clubhouse there and she was trying to find a bathroom. She saw a gentleman from behind and said, sir, do you know where the nearest bathroom is? He turned around and it was Arnold Palmer and she was speechless. He was a true gentleman to her and showed her where to go. That's her memory of him and it's become my memory, too.
Back when I first started, I was signing an autograph for someone in front of Arnie... Arnie looked down at my scribble and said, "What is that?" I said, "It's my autograph." He said, "That's fine if you're signing a bank check, but when you're autographing a piece of memorabilia for someone, you had better make it legible." I thought to myself, you know he's right -- it's no fun to get an autograph if you can't even tell who it is from. So now I always sign my name clearly, do a little sketch for them or something. Funny thing about it is I ran into Paula Creamer a few years ago and she said Arnie taught her the same thing.
The best one I could say about Arnold Palmer, I saw on TV ‑‑ it's about 10 years ago. He's playing a (Champions Tour) event, and they're interviewing him after the event, and he is buzzing. You've never seen a man with so much excitement and enthusiasm because he found the "secret to the game." I just love the fact he's played the game at least 50 years competitively, and he's still convinced that there's a secret, just like all of us are out there hoping that tomorrow we're going to hit the range and we're going to find that one little thing that we've got for the rest of life. At 70 years of age, he was just buzzing at this interview. He'd found the secret to the game. I just love his enthusiasm.
When I was 11 years old, all my family is from Pittsburgh, so I was just starting to play golf. My uncle John Kovak was a teacher, wasn't a PGA teacher, but we went back to Pittsburgh for a month for the summer, and I was just getting into golf and he was helping me, yada-yada, started to absolutely love it because I could drive a golf cart there. This was back when I thought Pinnacle 384s were the best ball in the world. My mom and I went for a ride up to Latrobe, wasn't that far away. We found Latrobe Country Club and drove in like we owned the place. I was wearing a light blue Town & Country surf design tee shirt with a big ugly emblem on the back, and I had these shorts on that had yellow and pink and blue and red, I don't know what they were, obnoxiously terrible. Never been on a surfboard in my life, but I looked like a surfer. So we walked into the pro shop at Latrobe Country Club, members only, walked into the pro shop, and we kind of in a stupid way said, "Is Mr. Palmer going to be here?" They said, "As a matter of fact, he is." So we waited around. He drove up in a tractor-like golf cart. I just remember he was nice enough, he took a picture with us, signed a scorecard, and he said, "Son, I'm going to go hit balls. Would you like to come watch?" "Well, yeah, I'd love to." So he went down, took a whole leather bag of shag balls, dropped them on like the ladies' part of the first tee, the lower tee, and he sat the caddie down there and hit balls and I sat right on the little slope right behind the first tee and watched Mr. Palmer hit balls for about 45 minutes, and from that point on I knew I wanted to be a professional golfer.
PGA TOUR COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM
The first time I went to Latrobe was to have lunch and play golf with him. I couldn't get over how gracious he is to people to come to visit him. If you go there, he makes you feel like you're special. That's what he does. He makes people feel special. I guess the other thing would be all the other times I've seen him around people and he's never, ever shied away, said no, not signed something. In all those respects, he's the best I've ever seen -- by a pretty big margin. It's just part of his DNA. That's just the way he is.
After 12 and a half years on TOUR, I finally won at Bay Hill for my first TOUR win. He handed me the trophy. Then, the next year, I came back and won it again two years in a row. His line at the 18th green was, "This is getting to be a pretty nice habit." Having him hand me the trophy in my first two TOUR wins is pretty special.
(I played with him for the first time at) the 1975 Byron Nelson. I shot a 75. You talk about being in awe of someone, I was in awe. He was a man I looked up to for my whole life, still do to this day. Shoot, it was the greatest thing. I know he's 80 years old and it kills him to be getting of age, but it's not an option. He's one of the greatest guys in the world. Without Arnold, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, I don't think golf would be the same sport it is today. Those guys got it on TV and got it in front of the public and all I can say is God bless them.
Arnold and I grew up and played golf throughout our careers together. We were fierce competitors against each other, but obviously we had great respect and great affection. He's been a wonderful role model to young people and to everybody for that matter. Not only in the United States but in the entire world - he's been a great ambassador for the United States. One of the best memories that I have: we were in Africa near the border of Zimbabwe. In those days it was safe to go there, and we were in a hotel on the second floor talking about the wild snakes that they have in the area. He was in the room next to me with Mark McCormack, who was IMG at that time. And I crawled along the ledge -- now this was on the third floor and I hate heights -- and I put my face, you know, how you put your lips up against the window, and I had my hands up against the window. He was sitting there, and he and Mark turned around and jumped to the sky. They had all of these snakes and animals on their mind in the middle of Africa, so they were on edge. We had a great laugh about that. Time goes by so quickly and you travel the world together. They say memories are the cushions of life and we have great memories.
My first Ryder Cup in 1975, Arnie was the captain. Arnie was still a pretty good player back then and we had a strong team. Those were the days when the U.S. team was going to win, it was just a matter of how much (they would win by). But that wasn't good enough for Arnie, who always showed his competitive nature and drove for excellence in everything that he did. In one of the team meetings, he was very serious in that he didn't want the other team to make a point. It was emphatically driven into us, "I don't want them to make a point." And here I was, it was my first Ryder Cup. Yes, I had been around Arnie and some of the other team members but I had only been on the TOUR for about seven years. I wasn't very familiar with all the personalities but I thought, wow, this guy is really into it. We are going to win...here we are in 2009 and I still think about that. There was something strong in that message, to strive for excellence and take no prisoners.
First of all, I can't believe he's 80. Those of us who have been lucky enough to know him have seen that he has never changed. He has been such a leader in our sport -- we just thank goodness that he chose golf. He's one of those people who transcends the sport. He has been so great for the game of golf, but we are so appreciative of his efforts over his whole life. He's been as consistent as anyone in the way that he treats people -- that is very evident in the people who have met him and it seems like he's met half the country. He does it in a way that's very unique. I'm just thankful that he's Arnold Palmer and that he played golf. He lit an avenue for all of us.
Tiger Woods says people got hooked on the game of golf because of Arnold Palmer. Ben Crenshaw thinks that Palmer transcends the sport. And Davis Love III will never forget one joke the King played on him at Bay Hill. As he celebrates his 80th birthday, several of his friends on the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour shared their favorite Palmer moments and discuss what he meant to golf.