Fans get personal with Palmer

By Mercer BaggsMarch 25, 2009, 4:00 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Arnold Palmer never asked to be The King. It was a designation cast upon him, and a crown he has always worn with reluctance.

The common touch, however, was instilled within him. And something he has always carried well and willingly.

Palmer credits his father, Deacon –“Deac” – for not only teaching him how to play the game, but for shaping him into the person he’s been for the last 79 years.

“Well, I guess, you just treat people the way you want to be treated,” Palmer said. “That’s about as simple as I can put it.”

John Jarosky would agree.

Jaroksy, a member at Bay Hill Club and Lodge, had a couple of friends in town a while back. Of course, they wanted to play the course. And, of course, they wanted at least a glimpse of Palmer.

At the time, Palmer had just undergone prostate surgery. According to Jaroksy, he was resting in the back yard of one of the cottages he owns off the 18th fairway.

“Now remember,” Jarosky says, “Mr. Palmer was not feeling very well and was relishing his rest with some peace and quiet.”

Jarosky’s guests, a couple of bold Chicagoans, on the other hand, saw this situation as an opportunity to gather a signature.

“They walked directly into the backyard,” Jarosky recalls. “He (Palmer) stood up out of his chair, which was at the time hard for him to do, smiled and called my friends over for a picture and an autograph.

“He could not have been more gracious. … Besides my father, I can’t think of anyone that actually lives by the motto, ‘Treat others the way you want to be treated,’ more than him.”

Jarosky is not alone in his adoration. Over the years, ever since turning professional in 1954, Palmer has developed a legion of fans – his very own, very well numbered army. People who would follow him on foot like Forrest Gump, from one side of the country to another, and back.

Why?

“He has this uncanny knack to make you feel so comfortable around him,” says Wayne Schmidt of Louisville, Ky.

“He makes you feel really cool and part of his crowd,” says Thomas Kees, who got a chance to hang out with Palmer after playing in a pro-am with him at a Champions Tour event in Houston.

The two were at a charity dinner when the late Dinah Shore walked over. “This is Tom Kees,” said Palmer. “You know Tom, don’t you?” Replied Dinah, “No I don’t, but it’s a pleasure.” To which Palmer responded, “Well you should, as he’s a great guy!”

About 10 years later the two met up again in Fresno, Calif. This time they had dinner with Kees’ wife and son, as well as Palmer’s pilot and caddie.

“The rest of the story is that five days later, I get a letter from Arnold thanking me for the dinner and conversation,” Kees says. “He remembered my wife and son by name and indicated that I had ‘a beautiful family.’ But he was mad because I didn’t let him buy me dinner.”

There are thousands of Tom Keeses across the U.S. and beyond. Thousands of people who shared a moment with Palmer, however fleeting, and left the encounter forever fulfilled.

“I’m sitting cross-legged on the grass at the very front of the large gallery and just inside the gallery rope on No. 9 tee, and here comes Mr. Palmer’s group,” tells John Hoch about attending the old IVB Golf Classic outside of Philadelphia with his father.

“Arnie strides onto the tee, gets his bearings – hitches his pants and pulls a club – and then proceeds to look down squarely at me. He smiles and winks directly at me!

“Of all the people around that tee that day and he somehow chose to smile and wink at me. I’ll never forget it.”

In the early 1980s, at a Champions Tour event in Lexington, Ky., Vic Peek watched as Palmer three-putted the 17th hole. “Tough bogey,” Peek told Palmer as he waited for the rest of the group to finish up. “Palmer squeezed my shoulder, looked me in the eye and said, ‘All bogeys are tough, son.’”

Palmer made plenty of bogeys throughout his career. One came on the ninth hole during the 1985 Doug Sanders Celebrity Classic in Houston. This one was particularly tough to take, because as Jay Reppond of Sugar Land, Texas, tells, he completely whiffed his tap-in par putt.

“Putter went right over the ball,” Reppond says, “I couldn’t believe it.”

Reppond had been hoping to get Palmer’s autograph during the players’ walk between the ninth and 10th holes. Now he wasn’t so sure it would be a good idea to approach him.

But he did.

“I got up the nerve,” says Reppond. “He was so gracious and smiled at me. He took my program and signed it. You would think after what just happened he might just pass me by. I will never forget that smile on his face, and the day I walked beside the ‘King.’”

It might seem a little too mushy, these Palmer tales. All this fawning and fond reminiscing. As if he were not without fault or free from sin.

But these are people’s stories. These are their experiences with Palmer.

The fact that each and everyone is positive only goes to showcase the love, respect and appreciation Palmer has for his fans. The fact that they are personal, individual moments – and not ones trumpeted for all to witness – showcases his sincerity.

“My son and I went to a Senior PGA tournament (in 1992) at Inglewood Country Club, near Seattle,” tells Dennis Acorn of Redmond, Wash. “My son (David, 12) and I waited near the parking lot for 20 minutes before a couple of Cadillacs pulled up with Arnie’s entourage.

“David and I were just watching and didn’t want to disturb Mr. Palmer, as he was late getting to the course. He seemed in a hurry to get to the driving range to hit some balls before his tee time.

“As he was heading to the driving range, a lady volunteer stopped Mr. Palmer and said, ‘Mr. Palmer, there is a little boy over there that has been waiting a long time to see you.’”

And what do you think was his response?

“Mr. Palmer stopped in his tracks and immediately came over and knelt down and shook hands with David. He also autographed a visor for him. …That small gesture of his made an impression that neither David nor myself will ever forget.”

The year was 1967. Jeff Roberts was stationed in Chu Lai, South Vietnam at a station surrounded by sand. One day, he and his buddy, Wally Schneider, decided to write Palmer and ask for a sand wedge and a few golf balls.

They didn’t know his address so they just sent it to:

Arnold Palmer
Latrobe, Penn.

Not only did each of the boys get a wedge and a dozen golf balls, they also got a personal note from Palmer thanking them for their service.

The following year, back home in Illinois, Roberts was able to attend the Western Open at Olympia Fields, where he waited outside the clubhouse for Palmer to appear. “I told him I was one of the guys he sent clubs to,” Roberts recalls. “And he asks, ‘Are you Jeff or Wally?’”

“That he not only remembered sending the clubs, but also remembered our names – that blew my mind.”

George Pasley has met Palmer on a couple of occasions; though, there was nothing quite like their first encounter.

Pasley won aboard a Singapore Airlines flight, on the way to Jakarta, Indonesia. Because of poor weather in Hong Kong, the flight was diverted to Taipei and the passengers were stuck on a tarmac for six hours.

“About three hours into the delay, the senior flight attendant announced to the first class cabin that Mr. Palmer would like to make a statement. He walked into the front cabin and said, ‘Many of you may not know me but I’m a professional golfer. I’ve experienced situations like this before. I’ve learned there is only one solution – martinis!

“He saved the day.”

And made many others unforgettable.

“The fans energize me,” Palmer said in a recent interview. “My fans are the people that I looked to as my inspiration. They made me want to win. When I see people smile, it makes me smile.”

Susan Schuch’s father idolized Palmer. Unfortunately, cancer brought an early end to his life. Right before it did, however, Schuch took her father to a senior event in Sarasota, Fla.

While waiting for Palmer for an autograph after his round, she was struck by his patience and generosity amid an ocean of fans.

“When it was my turn, as Arnie began to sign my ticket stub, Dad said, ‘Watch the man work, Susie.’ Arnie started to smile and then slowly looked up at me and then looked beyond me to engage my dad with a now broad smile.

“For over 20 years that memory has sustained me in times of missing my dad.”

Stories like these, individual as they are, are aplenty. Whether it’s a kind word or a 30-minute conversation; a wink or a smile; a chance to see him hit one tee shot or walk an entire round alongside him, inside the ropes; as Jimmy Carson says, “He just makes you feel human. Like he knows you. Like he’s your friend.

“He’s Arnold Palmer, for goodness sake.”

Joel Grant’s daughter had no idea who Palmer was when she met him in 1995 at a senior tournament near Seattle. She followed Palmer’s group in tow with her mother and father. At one point during the round, one of Palmer’s errant shots landed in their vicinity, “almost flush against a tree,” says Joel.

As Palmer surveyed his predicament – and what a fine mess it was – he noticed Joel’s daughter. “How are you?” Palmer asked, to which Brittany shyly smiled back.

Palmer had to take his medicine on that hole, but ultimately shot 66, just one off his age. Coming down the final fairway, Palmer’s tee shot once again finished near the Grant family.

“Nice to see you again,” Palmer said, with his big Arnie smile, to the little girl. She smiled back, as she did before, but didn’t speak – not because she was in awe of Arnold Palmer, but because that’s what shy 9-year-old girls do around strangers.

“As he walked away,” Joel remembers, “my daughter asked, ‘Who was that nice, nice man?’ I just shook my head and smiled. Who is this man whose charisma as a human, not just a celebrity is off the charts?

“I do not know, but for sure, they broke the mold when they made this man.”

Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.


Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.


Here are some other social media posts that have surfaced:


Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.



Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''


Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.