The golf world was saddened upon learning of Arnold Palmer’s passing on September 25, 2016. We all have a favorite memory of Mr. Palmer. I want to share a couple of mine.
In 2004, Jay Haas asked me to caddy for him in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Jay is the player who changed the course of my career when he allowed me to help him with his putting. I was eager to spend a few days with him in Orlando, but I did not know the treat I had coming when I first accepted Jay’s pairing for the Thursday and Friday with Mr. Palmer and Peter Jacobsen. This was Mr. Palmer’s last PGA TOUR appearance in his tournament.
The memory that sticks out the most about my walk inside the ropes with Mr. Palmer was how he played with a champion’s attitude. Let me explain:
In 2004, Mr. Palmer was 74 years old. He still had lots of game but not too much length. He drove his ball solid and down the middle, but often on holes (particularly 8 and 18), he would be left with a long approach to the green over water. Every single time, Mr. Palmer took dead aim. We all knew that it was unlikely he could clear the water. Each time he smashed his ball, it dropped short in the lake. He seemed disappointed, but he would walk up, take his drop, knock it on the green, and then hole a 20 or 30-footer for his boogie. The crowd would roar and Mr. Palmer, “the Champion,” “the King,” would tip his hat and press on. He could have laid up all of those approach shots and his score would have likely been better. But, I was there to watch him “play like a champion.”
Another special encounter with Mr. Palmer was one I shared with my son, Jake. I was playing in the 2012 Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach. Jake was 14 and was my caddy for the week. Mr. Palmer was at the event, sharing his time and stories with both sponsors and the First Tee kids playing in the event.
I was not only playing, but I was asked to be available at an evening gathering to give putting tips to the Nature Valley guests behind the 18th green. Jake had come along and brought his putter that evening – turns out Mr. Palmer was making his rounds, visiting with the Nature Valley guests and other TOUR players at the event.
He then walked onto the green on which we were putting. He shook Jake’s hand and asked to use his putter. Mr. Palmer hit a few putts and told a few stories while holding Jake’s putter the entire time. What a treasured moment to be a part of, and not to mention, Jake will always treasure the putter that Mr. Palmer used.
I hope this inspires you and you golf partners to take the time to celebrate his life and his impact on our game. After your next round, have an “Arnold Palmer” and share your Arnold Palmer memory.