50 Years Arnold Palmer Part 1

By Mercer BaggsApril 2, 2008, 4:00 pm
Editor's note: As Arnold Palmer approaches his 80th birthday Sept. 10, we reflect with some of our best Palmer stories.
 
Today there are no worries. Today there is no race.
 
Today, says Arnold Palmer, I feel pretty good.
 
Yes, today is a good day for the 78-year-old golfing icon, one to relish where lifes locomotive has taken him and not worry about where its headed.
 
Fifty years ago. Thats what Palmer is being asked to recall on this fine day. The first week in April, 1958, to be exact, back when he won his first of four green jackets, defeating Doug Ford and Fred Hawkins by one ' and a rather perturbed Ken Venturi by two.
 
For Palmer it was his fourth appearance at the Masters Tournament. By then he was an established 28-year-old professional player, a winner of eight PGA TOUR events.
 
He was driving a Cadillac at that point, not that two-door Ford hardtop, with trailer in tow, which he had been when he first showed up in 55 a bit desperate and a lot broke.
 
By then (1958) I had enough cash to afford that car, Palmer says with a smile.
 
Arnold ' handsome and strong, married and father of one little girl ' was a burgeoning superstar in the late 50s. He wasnt yet The King ' that title wasnt given to him until years later. Winning the 1958 Masters, though, helped set the foundation of his reign.
 
It got real serious when I won the Masters and the (U.S.) Open in 1960, recalls Palmer about his popularity. Thats when it got exciting.
 
Nineteen-hundred and 58 had been an exciting year for Palmer leading up to the seasons first major championship. Two weeks prior to the Masters he won in St. Petersburg, Fla. The following week he lost in a playoff to Howie Johnson at the Azalea Open Invitational. Afterwards he hopped in his fancy Cadillac and made his way from Wilmington, N.C., down to Augusta, Ga.
 
Palmer remembers well the days leading up to the start of the 22nd Masters Tournament. The winners list already included the likes of Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan.
 
Thanks to his good buddy Dow Finsterwald, Palmer had a match set up with Hogan. Of course, Palmer and Hogan were on opposite teams; Palmer with Finsterwald, Hogan with 1956 Masters champion Jackie Burke.
 
Hogan and Palmer were never chummy. They displayed polar opposite personalities ' Hogan distant and cold; Palmer, 17 years his junior, receptive and warm. Says Palmer with another smile: He wasnt my kind of guy. We were, lets say, distant friends.
 
The two squared off in a 'friendly' team match that Tuesday. Having arrived just hours before, Palmer was a bit groggy, his play a bit sloppy.
 
The good news was that my partner, Dow Finsterwald, played very well and we beat Hogan and Burke for 35 bucks which made me feel pretty dag gone good, Palmer says.
 
He grins at the memory. He also remembers Hogan questioning: How the hell did Palmer get an invitation to the Masters?
 
The comment stung Palmer, who only admitted as much to his wife at the time. Fifty years later his response is: I won the 58 Masters.
 
He grins again.
 
Like many, Palmer's attraction to Augusta National was immediate, even before he actually had a chance to play it.
 
'I was in love with it before I ever got there in 1955,' Palmer says, 'I knew what it was like, and to get to Augusta was,' he pauses for reflection, 'just ... it was the best feeling you could have.'
 
Desite his fondness for the course, not many figured Palmer to be a Masters champion. While very talented and a proven winner, pundits and contrarians believed his ball flight would never lead him to be successful at Augusta.
 
There was some talk among the senior pros and some of the amateurs who were pretty good, and there was some talk about my possibly winning the Masters, Palmer recalls.
 
But it wasnt very complimentary.
 
Palmers ball trajectory was low ' I never hit my irons up in the air like Jack, he says. At Augusta its beneficial to be a high-ball hitter, to have your approach shots land softly and perfectly on those extreme putting surfaces ' like Nicklaus, who won a record 6 green jackets, or Tiger Woods, who already has four.
 
Not like Palmer ' a line-drive hitter ' who, incidentally, has four as well.
 
As the story goes, or as Palmer likes to tell it, his good friend and fellow pro George Fazio was talking to Tony Penna one afternoon. The two were watching a young Arnie hit balls on the range.
 
He (Penna) says, What, hes on tour full time? And Faz says, Yeah, and hes gonna be pretty good. Penna looked a Fazio and he said, You know, if hes a friend of yours you better tell him to get a job,'' Palmer says with a chuckle.
 
Certainly Palmer had the last laugh, throughout his career and in that first week of April, 1958.
 
Well I knew my game was in pretty good shape even though I played poorly in the practice rounds. I was hitting the ball good and I felt confident, Palmer says, adding, I didnt really have any idea that I was going to win the Masters. That is something you cant really tell yourself.
 
Palmer opened that Thursday in 2-under 70, placing him two back of Venturi. He shot 73 Friday, but made a 25-foot birdie putt to close out a third-round 68 and earn a share of the 54-hole lead with Snead at 5 under.
 
The previous year, Palmer was one back of Snead after three rounds when he closed in 76 to tie for seventh.
 
That, Palmer said at the time, wont happen again.
 
Editor's note: Part 2 can be read Thursday, Sept. 3rd, on GolfChannel.com
 
Related Links:
  • Send Arnold Palmer Your Birthday Wish
  • Getty Images

    Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

    By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

    JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.

    The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.

    Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.

    Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.

    There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

    Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

    Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

    None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


    Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

    An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

    In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

    Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


    Playing with the pros

    Tiger, DJ and Faxon

    Article: Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

    Article: After DJ and Tiger, Trump plays golf with Jack

    Rory faces criticism

    Article: Rory: Round with Trump about respect for presidency

    Article: Rory: Round with Trump not a 'political statement'


    President at the Presidents Cup


    Video: President Trump makes the rounds at Liberty National

    Article: President Trump presents trophy to U.S. team

    Article: Stricker: 'Great thrill' to get trophy from Trump


    Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham

    Article: Senator tweets Trump shot 73 in windy, wet conditions

    Article: Graham offers details on Trump's round of 73


    Cart on the green


    Article: Trump appears to drive cart on Bedminster green


    Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open


    Article: Trump makes presidential history at Women's Open

    Article: Trump supporters, protesters clash near Women's Open

    Article: UltraViolet takes protest inside Trump National


    Photo gallery: President Trump at the U.S. Women's Open


    Trump golf properties

    Vandalism

    Article: Environmental group vandalizes Trump golf course

    Article: Man accused of vandalizing four Trump courses

    Finances


    Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

    Article: Eric Trump denies Russia helped fund golf courses

    Article: Trump company ordered to pay $5.77M in dues dispute

    Reportedly fake TIME covers


    Article: Trump clubs display fake Time magazine cover


    Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story

    Report: Trump's voter fraud claim tied to Langer

    Langer: Trump 'apologized' for story mix-up


    Pros comment on the president

    Article: Players defend Trump at Senior PGA Championship

    Article: Trump congratulates Daly; Daly congratulates Trump

    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm

    Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

    Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

    With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

    Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

    The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

    Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

    In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.