Palmer More Than Ceremonial

By Associated PressApril 5, 2007, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- There were so many memories, so much going through his mind.
The job of the gray-haired man in a light blue sweater on this chilly spring morning was to stick a tee in the ground and hit a shot down the first fairway. Arnold Palmer had done it so many times before he shouldn't have had to think twice about it.
This was different. Because now Palmer's thoughts drifted back to another era, a simpler time.
Arnold Palmer
Arnold Palmer gives the crowd a thumbs up Thursday morning. (WireImage)
The years came rushing back.
He remembered the time he first came here as a starstruck college student to watch names like Snead, Hogan and Nelson. The time when he first teed it up in the Masters and Gene Sarazen was his playing partner. The time the president of the United States wanted to play golf with him the morning after he won a green jacket.
So many memories.
It was just one tee shot, one swing of the driver. Somehow, it seemed to mean so much more.
'Whoever thought that 60 years later, here we are,' Palmer said.
He's an old man now, with stooped shoulders and a face weathered by years in the sun. His once massive army has been reduced to a collection of fellow senior citizens who were as happy to see him as they were glad they didn't have to leave their folding chairs on the first tee to follow him down the fairway.
This was one place he hadn't expected to end up. The Masters had ceremonial starters before, but they were all players from another time and, well, they were all old.
Now he was old too, and if he needed any reminding, all he had to do was look around the interview room and see the large picture of himself looking young and vibrant in a sweater nearly a half century ago.
If he needed a second reminder, it came when he bent slowly to put a tee in the ground just like he had done so many thousands of times before.
'I can still bend over, anyway,' Palmer said, drawing a chuckle from his geriatric army.
He's 77 now and, like many his age, life has settled into a quiet routine. Most days he wakes up around 6 a.m., puts on the coffee, tosses a leash on his dog and goes out for a walk.
This morning would be different.
He was back at a place where he thrilled so many with his swashbuckling style on his way to four Masters titles, a place he left with some bitterness after a brief tiff with the former chairman over whether he could still play or not.
Much to his dismay, it turned out Palmer couldn't play anymore. But Hootie Johnson still lost that battle in the court of public opinion because he was going up against The King, a man who turned on millions to the game of golf and made it cool before Tiger Woods made it even cooler.
He thought about those times in the 24 hours leading up to his ceremonial first tee shot. He thought about how much this golf course and tournament meant to his life.
'A lot of those things came to my mind,' Palmer said. 'I just was reminiscing and thinking about how much Augusta has meant in my life, right up to today.'
He had been thinking about becoming the ceremonial starter for a few years now. It used to be a fixture, but the Masters hasn't had one since Sam Snead died five years ago.
With a new chairman on board, this was the time. And Palmer also understood that time might be running out.
'I didn't want to get up and die before I did it,' Palmer said. 'Getting to my age, at some point you've got to think about that.'
There was nothing riding on this tee shot, unlike the 50 other drives he had hit off the first tee on Thursday morning of previous Masters. Still, Palmer wasn't going to take any chances.
He took two drivers to the range, hitting about 20 balls before picking the one he would swing. Then it was off to the first tee, where his arrival was announced by a wave of applause that began at the clubhouse and spread to the course.
The familiar glint was in his eye, and he posed for pictures with new chairman Billy Payne. He joked to Payne that if he hit it well, he might play 18.
A chilly breeze blew into his face as long, early-morning shadows framed the famous opening par 4. Around him, fans streamed into the course hoping to catch a glimpse.
Palmer put his tee into the ground, addressed the ball and looked down the fairway.
'Sure is beautiful, isn't it,' he said to no one in particular.
He then hunched over in a familiar stance, waggled the club and swung. His confidence wasn't what it once was and he had been afraid he would top it.
But he struck it solidly and the ball headed toward the left rough about 200 yards away.
The crowd applauded, and Palmer smiled his familiar smile. On the tee, pictures were taken and hands were shaken.
Now, his day was over, and it was time to head back in the clubhouse.
Another memory had been made.
And the Masters had officially begun.
Related Links:
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  • Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

    Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

    In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

    "It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

    Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

    “Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

    “That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

    Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

    The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

    Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

    Lexi Thompson:

    Baking time!!

    A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

    David Feherty:

    Jack Nicklaus:

    GC Tiger Tracker:

    Steve Stricker:

    Golf Channel:

    Frank Nobilo:

    Ian Poulter:

    Tyrone Van Aswegen:

    Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

    Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

    By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

    Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

    Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

    Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

    “Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

    Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

    “When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

    Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

    “Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

    In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

    “Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

    Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

    “The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

    Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

    “Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to

    Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

    Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

    LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

    Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

    Christina Kim:

    LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

    LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

    LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

    LPGA pro Jennie Lee: