From The Inbox

Arnold Palmer makes a picture-perfect connection

Pre-tournament preparations aside, Palmer stops to focus on a fan, gaining another recruit for ‘Arnie’s Army’ in the process

My friend Dan O’Neill wrote beautifully about an encounter with Arnold Palmer at Kemper Lakes (“ ‘Arnie and me’: A story worth sharing,” May 12).

Let me share a short story I’ve repeated on the air countless times.

My first British Open was in 1983 at Royal Birkdale, Tom Watson’s last major win. Palmer had played average golf during the first couple of days, but a 3-under 68 on Saturday put him in a position for a strong finish two months shy of his 54th birthday.

I marshaled for Palmer at the 1971 Crosby at Spyglass Hill, so I naturally followed him to the range Sunday morning. Because he was in one of the later groups, photographers swarmed him from all angles. From the stands, it looked as if they captured every swing, from every allowable angle.

The range was a short buggy ride to the practice green and the starting hole. When Palmer finished warming up, he started toward his cart and driver, a little white-haired woman. She held up her small camera to capture her moment with “The King.” Palmer waved a gesture of denial, and you could see the woman’s shoulders slump in disappointment, matching my feelings, as well.

But just as quickly, Palmer gestured with his finger for her to walk over to him. As soon as she got near him, he took the camera from her and handed it to one of the many photographers. He then put his arm around her shoulder and pointed to the cameraman to take the picture.

O’Neill’s story and mine were repeated thousands of times through Palmer’s career, not just with young sportswriters but ordinary people who enlisted for life in “Arnie’s Army.”

Dan Reardon
St. Louis
(Reardon is the golf correspondent for KMOX-AM 1120 radio in St. Louis.)

Making friends and influencing people
In 2002, the U.S. Senior Open was held at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. The corporation for which I worked volunteered to provide tournament security. My neighbor/co-worker and I signed up as volunteers (“ ‘Arnie and me’: A story worth sharing,” May 12).

On the first day, we showed up and were assigned to the security for the players’ entry. We were given ropes to be used for crowd control but did not need them as only a couple of dozen fans were at the entrance at any given time … until Arnold Palmer showed up. Suddenly, there was a crush of people waiting for Palmer to make his way from the parking lot to the entrance. The ropes were needed to allow for a pathway.

As Palmer turned toward the entrance, he was intercepted by a local sports reporter who had an appointment to interview Palmer for TV news and pointed to a side entrance, away from the players’ entrance and where Palmer could bypass the hassle of the ever-growing crowd that awaited his arrival. Palmer took a look at the crowd, turned to the reporter and pointed to the gate.

Palmer wasn't going to disappoint those who had gathered, and he didn't. He walked through the teeming crowd, signing autographs on hats, shirts, pin flags and programs, all the while talking with many of the fans along the way as though they were long-lost friends. Soon, he was through the area and headed in to do his interview. Everybody was awed and excited by the encounter.

What I witnessed was amazing and has stuck with me over these last 18 years. I no longer wonder why he was called “The King.” Arnold Palmer has the admiration of all whom he has encountered over his glorious career.

Doug Walters
Ellicott City, Md.

Nicklaus and Palmer shares many of same traits
Thanks for the article by Dan O’Neill and the good memories of Arnold Palmer (“ ‘Arnie and me’: A story worth sharing,” May 12).

Golf requires honesty and integrity. Arnold Palmer exemplified those characteristics as a golfer and person. Jack Nicklaus did, as well.

As a young boy, I went with my father to see Nicklaus at a father/son tournament in Pensacola, Fla., in about 1974. Nicklaus, like Palmer, interacted with his followers and even took the time at the driving range to show us how he warmed up before a round by hitting 5-irons to his caddie, who was standing 200 yards out. The caddie was able to catch many of balls on the bounce as Nicklaus hit just about every ball into the same spot.

I recall Nicklaus saying how important it was to stay loose at address, but what I saw as a kid, as he was about to hit a ball, was his slightly fierce grimace and head turn, and his forearms swelling up as if he were about to rip the cover off the ball. I’ll never forget that fierce look of concentration, and how he never seemed relaxed to me. But as soon as the ball took flight and after he took a quick glance to ensure the ball’s path, he was as jovial and talkative as ever.

I realize that some golf fans might not think of a jovial Jack Nicklaus, especially compared with Arnold Palmer, but both shared many of the same traits that we can admire.

Steve Martnishn
Vienna, Va.

Snowbird prefers time spent as LPGA volunteer
With regard to John Hawkins’ recent article on PGA Tour volunteers (“This might be the best deal in golf,” May 13), I have been a volunteer for close to 40 years.

As I'm from Ohio, I started at Firestone Country Club in Akron, quickly moving from a marshal to walking-scorer duties. I was lucky enough to get Jack Nicklaus there twice in one week. He was such a personable guy that, upon reflection, no other pro has an excuse for bad behavior when he set that stellar example. And believe me, there are some awful stories (including some caddies in that category). On occasion, I “traded” my idolized player away rather than put up with him for 18 holes. I always justified paying to "volunteer" due to the charitable dollars that stayed in the community.

Over the years, snowbirding between Ohio and Florida – and I'm echoing volunteer Jim Kavanagh's sentiments here – my husband and I much prefer volunteering for the LPGA. We routinely work the Marathon Classic in Toledo, Ohio, and the CME in Naples, Fla., along with a few others. The culture is that of a family experience, and the gals, upon the whole, are much more appreciative.

Lori Bellitt
The Villages, Fla.

Blame PGA Tour for ‘reprehensible’ treatment of volunteers
John Hawkins’ article on tournament volunteers (“This might be the best deal in golf,” May 13) reminded me of a quote from a very silly 1965 movie, “What's New Pussycat?” (Warning: This movie would be considered mired in negative sexual stereotypes today.)

Peter O'Toole (as Michael James): Did you find a job?

Woody Allen (as Victor Skakapopulis): Yeah, I got something at the striptease. I help the girls dress and undress.

O’Toole: Nice job.

Allen: Twenty francs a week.

O’Toole: Not very much.

Allen: It's all I can afford

It's nice that the volunteers enjoy their jobs at least some of time, some of the PGA Tour players don't come off very well, and it doesn't really justify their having to pay for the so-called privilege.

I understand that it is the local organizers who provide the volunteers and that providing the uniforms for free would cut into the charity purse. However, the PGA Tour's failure to step up here and provide the required uniforms, free food and water and access to rest/comfort areas is reprehensible.

As an aside, the idea that these volunteers will be able to provide the accurate information necessary for ShotLink to support online wagering is ludicrous. With all that money going down, this probably will end up being done by trained and paid spotters, to ensure the punters have the necessary information to lose their money.

Hundreds of millions of dollars rain down in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., on a regular basis. One or two hundred thousand dollars per event hardly would require major cost cutting. For PGA Tour players competing for millions and tour executives making similar amounts requiring people to pay to help stage their events is truly low-class behavior. "But they’re willing" isn't a good-enough reason.

Just because the volunteers’ good nature and love of golf allows the Tour to exploit them doesn't make it right.

Blaine Walker
St. Paul, Minn.

Plenty of memorable experiences
I have been volunteering for a few decades in most tournaments around Sacramento, the Bay Area, San Jose and northern Nevada (“This might be the best deal in golf,” May 13).

Many have not charged anything in recent years and offer clothes, food (some of it pretty good with Golf Channel), multiple free tickets, etc. For example, the LPGA Mediheal Championship charges only $60. The PGA Tour’s Safeway Open, at Silverado Resort, charges nothing.

If I weren’t volunteering, I would be paying my way in. I love attending. For minimal or no fee, I have inside-the-ropes access, typically with the top groups. For example, I was assigned Lydia Ko's group in the playoff two years ago at Mediheal. Last year, I walked 18 with Lexi Thompson, et al. At Silverado, I walked 18 with Phil Mickelson. I have walked with Tiger Woods, Hale Irwin, Lee Trevino and Justin Rose. Such a deal. Mostly as a TV spotter for Golf Channel. Fantastic folks and experiences, e.g., looking for players' balls with players; Rickie Fowler asking for an NFL football score; listening to caddie discussions (assigned the furry microphone once), unsolicited high fives from an excited player in contention (I try to keep my distance).

There even are a few experiences that I cannot (or will not) share. The scorer concept with respect to gambling was very interesting (I have been a walking scorer), but isn't there much redundancy. When spotting for Golf Channel, I have corrected the walking scorer multiple times.

Fred Batt
Folsom, Calif.

An occasional greeting would make a difference
A well-written article about us volunteers by John Hawkins (“This might be the best deal in golf,” May 13).

We spend our time, our energy, and, yes, our money helping tournaments take place.

I agree, with a few exceptions, that LPGA and Champions players are much nicer to us than are PGA Tour players. I recognize that “it’s their workplace,” but an occasional greeting makes a huge difference to us.

Thanks for your story.

Vytas Tarulis
Carlsbad, Calif.

Paying to volunteer ‘a total rip-off’
I wholeheartedly agree with the readers' legitimate gripe about forking over $75-$100 to volunteer at golf events ("From the Morning Read inbox," May 14).

You report before sunup and “work” your assigned hole, from tee to green. The best part is working the ropes by the hole, where volunteers can see the players up close. That is a plus.

But paying to devote your time at multimillion-dollar tournaments is a total rip-off.

Kitty Russell

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