One in a series during Arnold Palmer Invitational week
By Alex Miceli
Whenever you can spend time with Arnold Palmer, you do it, even if it requires a detour.
In May 2014, I was driving from Columbus, Ohio, to New York for a PGA of America event.
Knowing that my route would take me near Latrobe, Pa., Palmer’s hometown and summer retreat, I called Doc Giffin, Palmer’s longtime assistant and confidant, asking whether I could visit with “The King.”
On my trip, I picked up Jeff Babineau, a colleague at Golfweek, at the Pittsburgh airport, and we drove an hour east to Latrobe.
I’d been to Latrobe before, but a visit to Palmer’s hometown always produces an anticipation of seeing The King.
Latrobe Country Club is an enjoyable course, featuring small and quick greens. Just as with play at other historic venues, Latrobe captivates visitors with the knowledge that Palmer, who died Sept. 25 at age 87, walked these holes as a kid when his father worked at the course as superintendent.
We met with Palmer at his office, spending most of the time telling stories as our host spent most of the time signing memorabilia sent to him by so many of his millions of fans around the world.
After about 30 minutes of visiting, we went to the country club for lunch with Giffin and Jerry Palmer, Arnold’s younger brother by 15 years.
After lunch, Jerry, who died less than two months after his brother last year, also would be our guide at the club barn, which housed a huge collection of Palmer’s golf memorabilia.
It was the first time that Babineau or I had been in the barn, which was packed with an impressive collection from Palmer’s World Golf Hall of Fame career that produced 62 PGA Tour victories, including seven major championships.
Finally, we made it to the golf course. Although neither of us was playing well, we enjoyed a gorgeous spring day in the Chestnut Ridge of the Appalachians.
On one hole on the back nine, we missed our drives – one wide right and the other far left. As we detoured to our golf balls, a third cart joined us. Palmer arrived, with two bags full of clubs, to see how we were doing. He didn’t need long to figure out that we were struggling, at least on that hole.
“What hole are you playing?” Palmer quipped, knowing well which hole we were attempting to navigate.
After a couple of zings among us and Palmer as we talked about the course, Palmer watched our recovery shots. He shook his head in resignation, smiled and went on his way.
Later, we learned that Palmer liked to go to a secluded part of the property to hit balls in the afternoon.
As we drove down east along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we talked about what a memorable day it had been. It was a day fit for a king.
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @AlexMiceli