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<div style="text-decoration: underline; font-size: 20px; font-weight: bold; color: #666666; margin-bottom: 10px;">‘The King’ and I</div>Palmer and Masters boss join in a photo finish

‘The King’ and IOne in a series during Arnold Palmer Invitational week

By Jim Moriarty

In the early ’90s I was at Bay Hill doing a portrait of Arnold Palmer. So blessed was he by the fates, I decided to take his picture holding the sun in one hand and the moon in the other — cutouts taped to a couple of baseballs.

In the middle of our shoot, we were interrupted by a bit of business that couldn’t wait. Arnold excused himself for a couple of minutes and I took advantage of the lull to check in with my art director.  Jack Stephens had just become chairman of Augusta National and in three weeks my art director wanted me to go there and take his picture in his green jacket. Easy. Except I was so wrapped up in what I was doing with Arnold, I forgot to put Stephens in my appointment calendar. The day to be at Augusta National arrived, but I didn’t. I had blown off the chairman. 

Stephens could not have been kinder. He offered to meet me in Little Rock. When I arrived, I stammered through the reasons why I had forgotten our first appointment, explaining I had been distracted by my work with Palmer. I described the photograph to him.

“Could I have a copy?” Stephens asked me. 

“Sure,” said I, flattered in a simpleminded kind of way. In fact, I told Stephens, the following week I was going to be in Latrobe to do another portrait of Palmer, this time in his workshop.

“Really?” Stephens said. “Do you think he would autograph it?”

“Sure,” I said. 

Before I got to Latrobe, I cleared everything with Doc Giffin, Arnold’s No 1. He’d be happy to sign it, Doc assured me. Into Arnold’s office I trotted, 11x14 print under my arm. I laid the picture on his desk.

“It’s for Jack Stephens,” I said. 

Arnold looked at me as though I were from a galaxy far, far away. Doc barely could contain his laughter. I got a heavy dose of the Palmer look.

He wrote:

To Jack,
Best wishes,
Arnold Palmer

Then he handed it back with a quizzical look on his face. Palmer and Stephens were, of course, great friends. The chairman, who enjoyed a joke, had choreographed it in absentia. The look was my penance. Arnold, an unwitting participant, had delivered it. The joke was on him, too. I framed the photo and sent it to Little Rock. Lord only knows what ever became of it.

Jim Moriarty was a writer and photographer for Golf Digest and Golf World for 35 years. His book “Playing Through” about the players and tournaments of those decades came out in October of 2016. Email: backstop@nc.rr.com