Arnie: Winnie and Kit, the ladies in Palmer's life

By Bailey MosierSeptember 10, 2014, 10:00 am

The trajectory of Arnold Palmer’s life was forever changed in August 1954 when he won the U.S. Amateur. Little did he know, however, an even bigger surprise awaited him later that year.

After the U.S. Am, Palmer was invited to the Waite Memorial, an amateur tournament with festivities beginning Labor Day weekend in Shawnee-on-the-Delaware, Pa.

“As I was coming back into the inn (from playing a practice round), I saw a couple of pretty girls coming down the stairway that led to the main lobby,” Palmer wrote in his autobiography, "A Golfer's Life." "It was the quieter, prettier, dark-haired one that caught my eye. She had smoky good looks, and her demeanor had a clear sheen of class.”

Palmer was introduced to the two girls and shook hands with Winifred (Winnie) Walzer.

“If you don’t have anything to do, why don’t you come out and watch the golf,” Palmer said.

“Perhaps I will,” she responded with a smile.

Winnie was 19, studying interior design at Brown University’s affiliated design school at Pembroke College. The two connected at dinner the next evening.

Palmer recalled the event in his autobiography: “Winnie, I began to learn that night, was unlike any girl I’d ever met, not just pretty and comfortable in almost any situation, but also smart, well traveled (she’d just come home from a big European trip), engagingly independent minded, even something of a would-be rebel.”

The two were instantly smitten with one another, and Palmer walked away that week with two trophies – he won the tournament, and Winnie accepted his marriage proposal.

“They were very close,” Cori Britt, vice president of Arnold Palmer Enterprises, said. “He always called her ‘lover.’ ‘Hey, lover, how you doing?’ They were hand-holders, they were huggers, they were very close. It was sweet.”

Arnold Palmer and family

Arnold Palmer and family in Latrobe, Pa., in 1962 (AP)

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Arnold and Winnie originally planned on a spring wedding and a honeymoon in England after the 1955 Walker Cup (in which Palmer was set to play in St. Andrews, Scotland), but the two grew impatient and plans changed. Winnie wasn’t old enough to wed without her parents' permission, and her father never liked the idea of Winnie marrying a future struggling golf pro, who he doubted could properly provide for his daughter.

With help from Arnold’s sister Lois Jean, or "Cheech" as she was known, who was living with her husband, Ron, in Alexandria, Va., all the arrangements for an elopement were taken care of – the church, the minister and the reception – and Arnold and Winnie got married five days before Christmas in 1954.

“That was the beginning of a 45-year journey of learning,” Palmer wrote in "A Golfer's Life," “through the usual marital ups and downs, through Tour triumphs and personal disappointments she’ll never speak of, all magnified by my evolving success … I was just beginning to discover what I’d really found.”

Winnie traveled with Arnold when he first set out on Tour, but by Christmas 1955, Winnie was far along with the couple’s first child. They knew traveling and living out of suitcases would be difficult with a family, so they built a home in Palmer's birth town of Latrobe, Pa. Peggy was born in February 1956, and the couple had another daughter, Amy, two years later. Winnie stayed home to care for the children and help Arnold with finances and other business matters.

"Winnie has always tried to stay out of the limelight,” Palmer's longtime assistant, Doc Giffin, said. “Over the years, she's declined 10 times as many interviews as she's granted to people who wanted to talk to Mrs. Arnold Palmer. But she's always been there for Arnold when he needed her. She was the mainstay in raising two wonderful daughters. She kept the house and did all the cooking herself. In the early years, she handled a lot of Arnold's business arrangements. … Personally, professionally, in every aspect of his life, Winnie has always been there for Arnold."

“She was really the glue for all of our family,” Arnold and Winnie’s daughter Amy said. “She was just the most accommodating person ever. She had deep, meaningful relationships with everyone, and I think she knew what my father needed and was willing to take a back seat anytime she needed to make sure to put everybody else out front, when in fact she was the one that was so often the person behind the scene and I think she did amazing things juggling and raising a family and trying to be there for my father.”

Winnie died at age 65 on Nov. 20, 1999, from complications of ovarian cancer.

“Just losing her, I mean she was so much to so many of us,” Cheech said. “She’s my best friend, although I wasn’t (in Latrobe) very much; I lived in Washington. But they came through Washington all the time, we got to see each other a lot. She and I went on a lot of trips together, she was so much a part of us. I think my mother and dad loved her as much as they loved the rest of us. She just fit in perfectly.”

“I don’t think there’s ever been anything like Mrs. Palmer and there never will. She was a special lady,” Britt said.

Six years after Winnie died, Arnold married Kathleen (Kit) Gawthrop.

Arnold and Kit Palmer

Arnold and Kit during their first dance as newlyweds in 2005 (Getty)

“It was just a breath of fresh air,” Hollis Cavner, director of the Champions Tour's 3M Championship, said. “What he’d went through with Winnie, and to find Kit, the love he’s got with her now, it really helped him tremendously. … She’s been super for him and a lot of fun to be around. She was absolutely the perfect thing for Arnold to get him back to being the Arnold we know and love.”

Palmer wasn’t the only one happy to welcome Kit into his life.

“I think they were so totally different, my mother and Kit,” Amy (Palmer) Saunders said. “I think the companionship that Kit loves to watch sports, she loves to be at home and I think that’s really what my dad needs. I think he needed someone that enjoys the things he enjoys and I think that everybody embraced Kit in a way that I don’t think, I hope that she never felt that there was this looming presence of my mother.”

There is a looming presence of Winnie, but in a positive way.

“I don’t think it’s hard (living in Winnie’s shadow),” Kit said. "I think it’s nice to see (Winnie ever-present in Arnold’s life at Bay Hill), where she lived and the influence she had here.”

Of all the fortunes Palmer has acquired over the years, where he really struck it rich was in having found two women to share his life who shared him with the world. Both Winnie and Kit understood that as many perks as they would receive from being Mrs. Arnold Palmer, their relationship would be defined by what they gave … to Arnold and as a result, to the world. 

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.