Stories of Arnold Palmer's exploits on the course and generosity off the course are abundant — do you have a favorite?
Practically every golf fan has a favorite Arnold Palmer story. In advance of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, share yours.
Please email your response to editor Stuart Hall. In order to publish, please include your first and last name, along with your city and state of residence.
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The first major golf championship I covered for the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune was the 1980 U.S. Open at Baltusrol in Springfield, N.J., which is about seven miles from my hometown of Livingston, N.J. It’s where I learned to play golf from the father of my friend, a young man named Tom Mihalick, who was born with cerebral palsy.
After picking up my credential and getting the lay of the land of the Lower Course, I was walking across the parking lot to the media center when a jogger passed me. It was Arnold Palmer, who was returning from a morning run in the suburban northern New Jersey neighborhood. I introduced myself to him and asked if he had time to answer a couple of questions. Arnold was still in his jogging shirt, shorts and sneakers, and suggested we meet in the clubhouse 15-20 minutes later after he had time to take a shower and get dressed.
At the appropriate time, I went to the locker room and Arnold greeted me warmly. We sat down and had a couple of drinks as I proceeded to ask my questions. Arnold was so kind and probably sensed my nervousness. The interview lasted maybe 10-15 minutes, just the two of us. When we were done, I thanked him and went to write my story.
My first U.S. Open and my first big solo interview. Arnold Palmer. When I returned to my parents' home, I went across the street to visit Mr. Mihalick, to thank him for introducing me to this wonderful game and the people who played it. I gave Mr. Mihalick a ticket I bought to thank him. I'm sure Arnold would be pleased.
My background is as a teaching pro since 1969. I'm also a golf writer.
In 1995, I told Arnold that I was writing an instruction book, Know Your Swing. I asked if he could write something about me that I could put in the book. He wrote: "It is teaching professionals like Glenn Monday that help to preserve the Traditional Values of the Game." In 1997, my book was ready for publishing. I thought I should check in with Arnold to make sure he was still good with his statement. I called his office in Orlando.
His secretary was nice and told me he was very busy. She asked why I called and then told me she would give him a note.
Only moments later my phone rang, a man said, "Glenn, it's Arnold."
I was happy and surprised at once. I asked if he was still OK with the statement he had written. He asked if I would read it to him and I did. There was a pause and then he asked me to read it to him again and I did. Then Arnold said "That is it. Send me a copy."
Head Golf Professional, Dorado in Tucson
In May 2009, I was enjoying a golf weekend with friends at the Latrobe Country Club. When we were seated for dinner, we noticed Mr. Palmer and his party (wife Kathleen, brother Jerry, and Jerry’s wife) were at the next table. We did our best to remain quiet and reserved.
As Mr. Palmer and his party was exiting, he stopped at our table and asked if we were enjoying ourselves. We jointly said, “Yes!” I then snuck a picture of him while he was talking. Since that didn’t seem to bother him, I asked if he would be so kind as to have his picture taken with us. He said yes and asked Jerry to take our picture.
Shortly after that wonderful weekend, I came across a notice on the USGA website asking people to wish Arnold Palmer a happy 80th birthday. I submitted a brief note, something about how the truly great ones always have time for the little people, and included the picture of Arnold Palmer with the boys.
In March 2010, I was contacted by Ellie Kaiser, Assistant Manager of Photographic Archives at the USGA. Ms. Kaiser told me that the USGA was preparing a book for Mr. Palmer’s 80th birthday and she asked if they could use my comment and the picture. I said, “Yes!”
I was told by Ms. Kaiser that there was only one copy of the book to be made, strictly for Mr. Palmer, and it was presented to him at the USGA President’s Dinner in March 2011, just before that year’s Invitational at Bay Hill.
When we visited Latrobe for our annual visit in 2011, Mr. Palmer agreed to let us tour his office, and arranged for his brother, Jerry, to be our guide. I told Jerry about the photograph that he took and the book for Arnold’s 80th birthday. He said that he hadn’t seen it, but that’s probably because Arnold usually went right from the dinner to Bay Hill and probably had the book with him in Florida.
I told Jerry that if Mr. Palmer would like me to autograph the book for him, I would be happy to do so. I was never asked to sign it.
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
My best buddy, Alan, and I rode by ourselves on a train from Jackson, Mississippi to New Orleans in 1964, when we were 13. His uncle and aunt picked us up and took us to the tournament at Lakewood Country Club. When we saw Arnold Palmer we ran up to him. I asked him for his autograph.
His reply was a strong, “No.” After what seemed like five minutes — but was probably only a couple of seconds — and with my heart dropping to my feet, he said, “Not unless you tell me about yourself.”
What ensued was a conversation about me and my golf. The conversation seemed to last 30 minutes, but really lasted a couple of minutes. He then signed both of our books and wished us well.
Many years later I had the privilege of talking with him at a party, and told him this story. His reply was, “Did I do that? Ohh, I was bad sometimes!” Then he asked me about myself and my golf.
The man was one of a kind and the golf world misses him.
About 1978, I was a member at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario, and that was the venue for the Canadian Open. I would take my 10-year-old son Chris out to pull my cart for a few holes as he learned about the game, but he would love to go off by himself looking for golf balls. He was an incredible ball hawk.
That year, Arnie was highlighted in the Open program, and Chris knew that I had Arnold Palmer clubs (manufactured by Campbell).
Chris and I were at the Open on Saturday, and we heard that Arnie was ailing with serious flu. We wanted to be at the 18th green when Arnie arrived, because Chris wanted his autograph. That’s all he talked about. I coached him about asking very politely, with please and thank you, and Mr. Palmer.
He had the program and a pen, and stood right beside the path where the golfers walked off the 18th green to the scoring tent. Finally Arnie was leaving, and I saw Chris hold out the program, and Arnie just walked right past him without stopping. I thought, the poor little guy will be crushed … he had his hopes up so high. But he followed the people behind Arnie to the scoring tent, and about 10 minutes later, he came running back with “I got it!”
I wondered what happened about Arnie walking past him, and Chris said that Arnie said, “I’ll sign it for you as soon as I get my scoring done."
A marshal relayed what happened. As soon as Arnie came out of the tent, he was swarmed, about eight deep, mostly by the women volunteers. After a few minutes, Arnie asked “Where’s that little guy that wanted the autograph?” The marshal beside Chris said “He’s right here.” And thus, the autograph.
Later that day, it was announced that Arnie was too sick to continue on Sunday, and he withdrew. But despite how tough he was feeling, he still cared enough to make a little boy happy. He probably didn’t do that thoughtful stuff more than several thousand times.
I've had the pleasure of playing Latrobe Country Club a couple of dozen times and got to meet the King, but my favorite Arnold Palmer story took place in the men's grill. We had an early tee time and then had lunch, and given the opportunity we played an "emergency 18" after lunch.
A passing thunderstorm sent us back to the grill room and there Palmer was, sitting at a table, chatting it up with his golf buddies and watching the British Open. Since it was now mid-afternoon, the coverage was a replay which we had seen when we were eating earlier. One of his buddies asked how Davis Love III was doing and I chimed in from the next table that he had finished a couple under. Mr. Palmer looked over at me for a second or two and then said, "the kid's right." I was 50 at the time!
He was leaving that day for the Senior British Open to be played the next week and then he did something that showed why golfers the world over loved him. He went and spoke individually to each of the six workers in the room for 30-45 seconds each and as he was about to enter the locker room he turned and acknowledged each table — the room was full — with a wave of his hand, walking away to a thunderous ovation.
The Carling Open Invitational came to Flint Golf Club [in 1957], when I was a young boy and just getting excited about golf. Our pro, Eddie Kirk, told my dad and me that Ken Venturi was going to be the next great player and that I should get his autograph.
Not yet understanding etiquette, I asked for his autograph as he came off the 14th green. He said not now and I was crestfallen — until another player, seeing my disappointment, put his hand on my shoulder and took the time to explain that during the round players were trying to stay focused on their work. He then said something about asking again after the round was over.
It was not that Venturi was not caring, but that the player who took the time to explain things was caring. That golfer was Arnold Palmer, my hero from that time forward.
I was lucky enough to work for Mr. Palmer for seven and a half years, as an assistant golf professional at the Bay Hill Club. In 1988, long after I had become a director of golf at another club, I was visiting the head golf professional at Bay Hill and Mr. Palmer came into the pro shop. He greeted me with his usual smile and asked “How are you and how’s your family?” I told him that my 10-year-old son, Brian, had a school project where he had to read a book about an important person and then give a report to the class being that person.
Brian was reading Go For Broke, which Mr. Palmer had written in 1973.
Mr. Palmer asked what we were doing the next day and why don’t I bring Brian up to the condo, bring his tape recorder. Winnie will fix us some breakfast and he can interview me. The following day we went to the condo, had a great breakfast and Brian had a thrill of a life interviewing his hero.
Of course, Brian received an A on his report and still has that tape from the interview. I’m not sure how many celebrities would invite a 10-year-old to their home but that’s what made Mr. Palmer special.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Arnold Palmer routinely stayed at the Valley Quail Club when playing in Bing Crosby’s invitational — now called the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am. I worked in the pro shop. Mr. Palmer came in to the pro shop each morning for an entire week and selected a putter off the sales rack. He practiced briefly on the putting green and then took the new putter to play the tournament with the price tag still on. The following morning he would return to the pro shop and exchange it for a different putter off the sales rack, always with a wink and his gracious smile. He made the cut that week, but I don’t think ever found a putter he loved.
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