Long Live The King
Did you enjoy the Ryder Cup this year? Some of the best drama, best golf ever played. Hundreds of thousands of fans packed the course in Minnesota while millions of others around the world watched it on TV. In tracing the popularity of the event and the world wide appeal of golf, it all leads back to The King, the late Arnold Palmer.
In the 1950's the Masters was just another tournament. TV coverage of golf was in its infancy. But in 1958, Arnold Palmer burst onto the scene and into your homes, winning the Masters and 7 majors between 1958 and 1964. The camera fell in love with Palmer and so did millions of Americans. He was magnetic, charming, charismatic AND was a whale of a player. He gripped it and ripped it on every shot. No golfer in history has equaled Palmer's appeal worldwide. He treated caddies, groundskeepers, clubhouse attendants, waiter and waitresses with the same dignity and respect reserved for Presidents and even the Queen of England. He had a charming smile, and for Palmer, the glass was always half full. You could feel it each time he smiled and gave his patented "thumbs up."
When Palmer was three years old, his dad, a former steel-worker-turned-club-pro , put a golf club in his hand and gave him a simple piece of advice: "hit it hard." And Palmer did exactly that... all the way through his final competitive round at the age of 77. Palmer loved to fly and one time flew around the world in 57 hours. He was chosen for three United States civilian honors - The Presidential Medal of Freedom, The Congressional Gold Medal and the National Sports Award - all of which he humbly accepted. In the early 1980's I was fortunate enough to play a few holes with The King out at Marlboro Country Club as they were trying to promote a new concept - a Seniors tour - now known as The Champions Tour. He couldn't have been more gracious when we met, and he kept calling me by my first name, which still floors me to this day. As we teed it up on the first hole, my knees were knocking and I hit a ball straight up in the air which seemed like a thousand feet. When it eventually came back to earth it landed about 500 feet from the tee. As the crowd chuckled, Arnie said to me "Not bad Mike, maybe a little less height and a little more distance on your next swing." He read putts for us, politely answered questions, gave up advice on our swings and posed for pictures. To this day, it is one of my all time thrills. He was the best; he impacted the game like nobody else.
He was indeed The King. Long Live THE KING!