For his birthday, 80 things we love about Arnold Palmer
The first time I met him, he called me persistent. With that little gleam in eye, of course.
September 08, 2009
By Melanie Hauser, Special to PGATOUR.COM
- September 08, 2009
- After a practice round in 1958, Hogan wondered aloud how that Palmer kid got into the Masters. A few days later, Palmer won the first of four green jackets. (Greg Freston/Getty Images)
He had just flown into Austin for the Legends of Golf and wanted to take a look at the golf course. I needed a story and wasn't giving up, so I matched him step-for-step as he rounded the corner and headed for the course.
He looked at me and chuckled. With that, we compromised. He stopped for a second -- ok, maybe 60 -- laughed, and gave me just enough to tease the good folks in Austin. One of those more-to-come, stay-tuned stories we wanted to throw out there to let everyone know The King -- now think a picture of Tiger anywhere -- had arrived in town.
Three decades later, Arnold Palmer still has that gleam in his eye. And me? I've got another column due -- on Arnie.
So, since the man himself turns 80 in a few days, I could think of no better way to celebrate his birthday than to give you 80 reasons -- in no certain order -- why we love Arnold Palmer.
1. Just saying his name makes you smile.
2. That whip of a swing.
3. The wink. If it's into a crowd and in your general direction, it seems meant for you.
4. The smile.
5. The rumpled shirt and the shirt tail that just won't stay tucked in.
6. The furrowed brow.
7. His grace.
8. His honesty.
9. Arnie. No last name needed.
10. His Army. A force of it's own and open to anyone and everyone. Just fall in and walk along with passion. Or yell and scream from home. You didn't have to be at a tournament to be part of his division.
11. Doc Giffin. Arnie's personal assistant/right arm for 43 years. Pure class. No one does it better. A reflection of the man who hired him.
12. His relentlessness. He was dead serious every time he hit a shot. He defined the term go for it.
13. His heart. He never gave up. Never.
14. The way he'd hitch up his pants. It was as much a signature as that wink.
15. Charisma. Lord, does he have it. Gary Player said Arnie fell out of bed with charisma. We won't argue.
16. The charges. None better than the 1960 Open at Cherry Hills. He was seven shots back going into the final round, shot 30 on the front nine and beat amateur Jack Nicklaus by two shots.
17. He never let Ben Hogan get to him. After a practice round in 1958, Hogan wondered aloud how that Palmer kid got into the Masters. A few days later, Palmer won the first of four green jackets. And Hogan? He never called Arnie anything but fella.
18. Autographs. He's stopped to sign a gazillion of them. And that doesn't count all the ones he signs while doing interviews at his desks in Latrobe and Orlando.
19. Photo ops. He always has time to pose for a quick picture when someone asks. It usually adds 20 minutes or so to a walk, but so be it.
20. Aging gracefully. He might have the patent on that one.
21. It's cool just to hang out with him. He doesn't have to talk golf. Or talk to you. You can just hang on a fence a few yards away and watch him hit balls or putt or chat with a friend. What matters is you're there and so is he.
22. Dipping his airplane wing when he leaves a course. The FAA doesn't let him do it anymore, but when he could? Let's just say it was very cool.
23. The PGA. The one that got away. It still feels like a cruel twist of fate. We felt his pain when Julius Boros got him. He shoulda had a Grand Slam. But you won't hear him complain.
24. Timing. He's one of the best at off-the-cuff. He never fails to draw a laugh or make a point.
25. He really does fly his own plane. Stepped into the cockpit 54 years ago and found another comfort zone. Right now he pilots a Citation X. Nothing but the best.
26. Pink and yellow shirts. It's hard to imagine anyone -- yes, even Ian Poulter -- looking better in those two colors. They set off his hair, his tanned face. You can't lose him in a crowd.
27. He knew the game exposed his flaws, but he never hid from them. He simply acknowledged them and tried his best to overcome them.
28. When he hit the ball in his prime, you swore the ground shook.
29. He took the game from black-and-white to Technicolor. TV was made for him, not vice-versa.
30. Pap. That's what he called his father Deacon. The man raised his son right. Hard work. Honesty. Simplicity. The lessons live on.
31. Latrobe. It's his home. He was born and raised in western Pennsylvania and when he had the chance to buy the club in 1971, he did.
32. He can tell you every stone, every tree, every bend at Latrobe. He hunted the grounds during the Depression.
33. Jimmy Demaret laid the groundwork for the Champions Tour with the Legends of Golf. Palmer made it work and took it the rest of the way.
34. GOLF CHANNEL. He believed in it -- and invested in it -- when not everyone did.
35. He speaks from the heart.
36. He wears the spotlight the way Tiger Woods wears clothes. With ease. No one will ever be more comfortable in it.
37. He understands the press. He was on his way to lunch-on-the-lawn after shooting 80 something one day and a group of reporters was gathered under the tree. When one reporter asked if he had minute to talk, he was surprised, but realized everyone wanted to know what he thought. The reporters were the conduit. He spent time with them because it was the right thing to do.
38. He never passes up the chance to give the needle to Tiger. Why? Why not?
39. He said goodbye at Augusta twice. The first time -- 2002 -- his final round was interrupted by a deluge that Friday. He could have said, "what the heck," and headed home, but he didn't. He came back the next day to finish up. The second time -- 2004 -- he closed out his 50th Masters with rounds of 84-84, but no one cared. They just wanted to see him on that course one last time.
40. He doesn't have a single greatest day on a golf course. He's got 60-some years of them.
41. This story. When he was standing on the 72nd hole and about to win his last Masters in 1962, he turned to playing partner Dave Marr who was fighting for second place and asked if he could do anything for him. Marr said, yeah, make an eight. They had a good laugh.
42. He created the wild ride on a golf course. Oh, let us count the ways.
43. His loyalty to Wake Forest. And Mark McCormack. And golf.
44. His friends back home. He still tees it up with them every chance he gets.
45. His workshop. There are more than 2,000 putters alone. It's his place to tinker and test.
46. He carried the game on his shoulders for decades. No complaints. Just smiles and winks. It was his pleasure.
47. Sponsors. He always did know their value. Still does. You can catch him making appearances around the country to help them out. Again, it's the right thing to do.
48. Winnie. The love of his life, his rudder and inspiration who died in 1999.
49. Kit. He found love a second time around and it put the spring back in his step.
50. The Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies. He built it in her memory. Annika Sorenstam just had her first child there, and Arnie came to visit.
51. The Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.
52. Just about everyone has an Arnie story.
53. Players admit they were in awe the first time they met him.
54. Seven majors.
55. Giving back. He always has -- financially and emotionally. After successful prostate cancer surgery, he turned his attention to raising money for research. That's a true quid pro quo.
56. He's The King.
57. He doesn't really have to ask anyone to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. It's called respect.
58. Those tiny umbrella lapel pins.
59. He speaks his mind. Whether it was to the PGA back in the 1960s or about today's players.
60. The standard. Pick one when it comes to our sports heroes, and he set it.
61. He's everywhere. At least his name is. He flies into Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe. There are Arnold Palmer Drives, an Arnold Palmer Scholarship, the aforementioned hospitals and a museum. He even had a cameo in the old cartoon series The Flinstones -- as Arnold Palmrock, of course.
62. Those 60s cardigan sweaters. My dad wore them. Didn't everyone's dad?
63. The stories. No matter how many times he tells one, you can't help but stop and listen one more time.
64. He treats presidents and superstars like ordinary people.
65. He treats ordinary people like presidents and superstars.
66. That thumbs up. It's usually preceded by and followed with a wave.
67. He taught us as much about ourselves as he did about the game.
68. The 1989 PGA at Kemper Lakes. He opened with a 68 and had us -- and his Army -- believing anything was possible. Even one month before turning 60.
69. A handshake. It was his word. He didn't need a mountain of contracts to do business with Mark McCormackand take marketing to a new level. If only things were that simple today.
70. People who couldn't care less about golf love him.
71. He's throwing out the first pitch at Tuesday's Pirates-Cubs game. Why not? And, oh, they're handing out Arnie bobbleheads that night.
72. He breaks the rules. Well, kind of. He's been known to carry two bags on his cart when he's playing a friendly round. That's more than 14 clubs.
73. He took a country club game, roughed up the edges and made it into everyman's sport.
74. He challenges himself every day.
75. What's cooler than asking your waiter for an Arnold Palmer (part iced tea, part lemonade)?(part iced tea, part lemonade)? Asking Arnie to have one with you.
76. He'll be there on the first tee at Augusta with Jack Nicklaus next spring to hit the first shot of the 2010 Masters.
77. He reminds us just how grand this old game really is.
78. The tears after his final competitive round. He wasn't afraid to let the emotion of 60 years wash over him.
78. For letting us tag along on what's been a fabulous ride through a marvelous career.
79. The next stage of his life. He's not finished with us -- or golf -- quite yet.
80. There will never be another one like him.
Melanie Hauser is a freelance columnist for PGATOUR.COM. Her views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR.