My Memory of The King, Arnold Palmer
If you play golf, then you have undoubtedly heard the name Arnold Palmer. Even though Mr. Palmer has long been retired from playing competitive golf, the impact that he made on the game is seen everywhere today. Televised golf events, corporate sponsorships, players developing themselves as a brand, and with the creation of the Golf Channel, Palmer single handedly took the game of golf from a game for “country clobbers”, into the lives of everyone, and from a sport into a business.
I remember the opportunity I had to see Mr. Palmer play golf live, it was of the grand opening of Harbor Shores Golf Club in Benton Harbor, MI. The course is a Jack Nicklaus design, and for the grand opening Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, and Johnny Miller conducted a clinic on the driving range, and then went out to play a team skins game. I attended the event with some family members, and we made sure to arrive at the course early to try and get our best vantage point. We figured it was going to be difficult to get anywhere near these icons of golf due to the size of the crowds that were in attendance, and the fact there was only going to be one foursome on the course that day.
Once we parked the car, the entrance that was closest to us, just happened to be next to the driving range. We figured we might as well take a chance and see them warm-up before their round. Since we were so early, we took a seat on the front row of a small set of bleachers that were set up. The crowds kept growing, and we just kept sitting. Finally, after over an hour of waiting, we could hear the crowd getting a louder and cheering, and all of the sudden, all four of the players appeared on the driving range and walked right next to us as they came out. Several years later, it still gives me goosebumps thinking about giving Mr. Palmer a high-five as we walked out onto the range. As he walked by, he seemed to make eye contact with every one of the fans, and in a silent manner had a way of showing appreciation for us being there to watch him. There is no other way to describe it other than magical.
We thought the players would simply go through their normal warmup and head out the course, but we shocked that they conducted a clinic for over and hour and a half. Each player hitting shots, and speaking for about 20 minutes each…sharing stories, demonstrating what made them successful, and offering tips to the gallery. With our vantage point, my family and I were only a few steps away from everything that was going on, with an unobstructed view, and it still is one of the greatest golfing moments I’ve experienced and will remember.
It’s not only what Palmer did on the course, but his reach to positively impacting lives away from golf is what made him a truly exceptional human being. His passing is a tragic loss in so many ways, but his legacy will live on forever.