Today I watched the recording of Jack Nicklaus' eulogy for Arnold Palmer. He said everyone who has a story of the King of Golf should share it. So here's mine.
I grew up watching Arnold Palmer on TV but I finally got the chance to see him play live at the old Comfort Classic Senior Tour event at the Broadmoor Country Club in Indianapolis. I took my young sons Jeremy (10) and Joshua (7) went with me. We quickly learned the tee time for Mr. Palmer's group and followed him around the course.
It was a Saturday so it was the second tournament day (Senior events are 54 hole affairs). Palmer started back in the pack but he was in top form that warm day. He hit fairway after fairway with his drive and every green in regulation. Bunkers didn't seem to exist before his pinpoint accuracy. After a few routine pars he started making putts and by the end of the round he shot 6 under par.
I and the boys joined the ever-growing crowd, clapping for every straight drive and roaring every time he sank a long putt for birdie. I could tell he was loving it. He was putting on a great show as he climbed the leaderboard. I found myself in awe of this icon of the game I still love. Those were the days before the often boisterous golfing crowds of today that seem to draw attention away from the golfers to themselves. I was proud that my sons got to see this great man do so well.
The last time I saw him play was after the event moved to the Brickyard Crossing course next to the Motor Speedway. He was in a threesome with Gary Player and another golfer whose name I cannot recall. They came to the 311 yard 14th hole and I stood not 15 feet away and listened to them talk while the group ahead finished up. Then without further comment, Player took the honors and each of them drove the green.
Years later, I still stand over putts thinking, "And here's Arnold Palmer with a putt to win the Masters . . ."