Arnold Palmer walked off the 20th hole, yesterday. If the 19th hole of the golf game is the clubhouse, for a round of brews, the 20th hole, at least for Arnold Palmer, is heaven.
I am not much of a golfer. Well, now, not a golfer at all. My forays into golf consisted mostly of work-related gold scrambles. A few times I went out and played just to play. I could drive the ball like a mad woman, but I also putted like I drove … with gusts, but little finesse.
And though I was never a gold fanatic, I know Arnold Palmer.
Last night, after I read that he had passed, I read about him. I knew I liked Palmer, but I wanted to find out why it seemed that everyone liked him.
Yes, Arnold Palmer won 62 titles.
Other golfers have won more.
But Arnold had what man of the other golfers don’t have … charisma. He also looked everyone in the eye and treated them with respect.
Not all big shot golfers or other professional athletes do that.
Palmer was movie-star handsome. Tall and lanky and did not perform with the air of a country club taught snooty-pants. He’d go up to the ball, look for the shot, with his cigarette, hike his pants and swing.
He got the strong arms from steering a steel-wheeled tractor. “When I was 6 years old, my father put me on a steel-wheeled tractor,” he recalled in a 2011 interview with the AP. “I had to stand up to turn the wheel. That’s one thing made me strong. The other thing was I pushed mowers. In those days, there were no motors on anything except the tractor. The mowers to cut greens with, you pushed.
“And it was this,” he said, patting his arms, “that made it go.”
I think we all know of the Arnold Palmer drink … half tea, half lemonade. You can ask for an Arnold Palmer most anywhere and people will know what you are talking about.
Palmer also loved aviation. He flew planes and jets and in 1976, he set a record circumnavigating the globe in 57 hours, 25 minutes and 42 seconds.
He was a man of accomplishments. But there are lots of people with accomplishments.
The difference with Palmer, is that he was a good man. He kept his driver in his pants, unlike another accomplished golfer. He was not drunk as a skink in the press, like another golfer I know of. He didn’t just take.
For his legends of fans, Arnold Palmer gave. He gave a smile, a laugh, a wink, a kind word, even a simple acknowledgement of another person’s existence.
He even had his own army. Annie’s Army started at Augusta National, when a group of soldiers from nearby, Fort Gordon, and grew to include men and women who simply loved to watch and be near the man.
There are certain people that I have never met, but I just don’t want to die. The world is just different without them. Ronald Reagan, Julia child, Beverly Sills, Roberto Clemente, Frank McCourt. Those are people whose accomplishments and presence, I enjoyed.
I will add Arnold Palmer to that list.