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.”

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Furyk tabs Woods, Stricker as Ryder Cup vice captains

By Will GrayFebruary 20, 2018, 9:02 pm

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk has added Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker to his stable of vice captains to aid in his quest to win on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years.

Furyk made the announcement Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., site of this week's Honda Classic. He had previously named Davis Love III as his first vice captain, with a fourth expected to be named before the biennial matches kick off in France this September.

The addition of Woods and Stricker means that the team room will have a familiar feel from two years ago, when Love was the U.S. captain and Furyk, Woods, Stricker and Tom Lehman served as assistants.

This will be the third time as vice captain for Stricker, who last year guided the U.S. to victory as Presidents Cup captain. After compiling a 3-7-1 individual record as a Ryder Cup player from 2008-12, Stricker served as an assistant to Tom Watson at Gleneagles in 2014 before donning an earpiece two years ago on Love's squad at Hazeltine.

"This is a great honor for me, and I am once again thrilled to be a vice captain,” Stricker said in a statement. “We plan to keep the momentum and the spirit of Hazeltine alive and channel it to our advantage in Paris."

Woods will make his second appearance as a vice captain, having served in 2016 and also on Stricker's Presidents Cup team last year. Woods played on seven Ryder Cup teams from 1997-2012, and last week at the Genesis Open he told reporters he would be open to a dual role as both an assistant and a playing member this fall.

"I am thrilled to once again serve as a Ryder Cup vice captain and I thank Jim for his confidence, friendship and support," Woods said in a statement. "My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do what I can to help us keep the cup."

The Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 28-30 at Le Golf National in Paris. The U.S. has not won in Europe since 1993 at The Belfry in England.

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Watch: Guy wins $75K boat, $25K cash with 120-foot putt

By Grill Room TeamFebruary 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

Making a 120-foot putt in front of a crowd of screaming people would be an award in and of itself for most golfers out there, but one lucky Minnesota man recently got a little something extra for his effort.

The Minnesota Golf Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center has held a $100,000 putting contest for 28 years, and on Sunday, Paul Shadle, a 49-year-old pilot from Rosemount, Minnesota, became the first person ever to sink the putt, winning a pontoon boat valued at $75,000 and $25,000 cash in the process.

But that's not the whole story. Shadle, who describes himself as a "weekend golfer," made separate 100-foot and 50-foot putts to qualify for an attempt at the $100K grand prize – in case you were wondering how it's possible no one had ever made the putt before.

"Closed my eyes and hoped for the best," Shadle said of the attempt(s).

Hard to argue with the result.

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Tiger draws Sneds, Kizzire at Honda Classic

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 7:43 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Patton Kizzire and Brandt Snedeker for the first two rounds of the Honda Classic.

The threesome will tee off at 7:45 a.m. ET Thursday off PGA National’s 10th tee, then 12:35 p.m. off the first tee in the second round Friday.

Woods is making his first start at the Honda, his hometown event, since 2014. He tied for second here in 2012, after a final-round 62.


Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


This is the first time he has ever played with Kizzire, a two-time winner this season and the FedExCup points leader.

Other notable groups for the first two rounds:

  • Justin Thomas, Sergio Garcia, Daniel Berger: 7:35 a.m. Thursday, 12:25 p.m. Friday
  • Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren, Gary Woodland: 7:55 a.m. Thursday, 12:45 p.m. Friday
  • Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Kevin Kisner: 12:25 p.m. Thursday, 7:35 a.m. Friday
  • Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Padraig Harrington: 12:35 p.m. Thursday, 7:45 a.m. Friday
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The Social: In perfect harmony?

By Jason CrookFebruary 20, 2018, 7:00 pm

Bubba Watson re-emerges in the winner's circle but gets exposed on the hardwood, Mark Wahlberg tunes out Tiger Woods and if John Daly wants a drinking partner, he need look no further than ... John Daly?

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Bubba Watson had himself a week.

The two-time Masters champion hung out with Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres, caught a taping of "The Big Bang Theory," played in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and still found some time to notch his first PGA Tour win in two years.

Watson's third victory at Riviera couldn't have come at a better time for the 39-year-old, with an annual trip down Magnolia Lane right around the corner. But don't let that distract you from the only Bubba highlight that mattered from the weekend:

Welcome to the block party, Bubba. Despite his former professional basketball playing wife's advice to stay out of the paint, Watson decided to challenge Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady at the hoop. You could say his challenge was accepted. And then some.

Watson, who picked up a couple of assists but also shot an air ball in the game, said afterwards that he "was just trying not to get hurt" and even poked a little fun at himself, calling out McGrady for committing a foul on social media.

But if these tweets from a couple of his PGA Tour peers are any indication, it will be a while before he lives this one down.

Sports fans probably take Bubba Golf for granted sometimes, no one plays the game like he does. Lets not make the same mistake with Bubba Basketball.

Want to know how far Tiger Woods has fallen? Sure, you could look at his 544th-world ranking or the current state of his game as he returns from injury, but the most telling sign came from his Wednesday pro-am round at the Genesis Open.

Woods was grouped with Mark Wahlberg for the day, and the superstar actor couldn't even be bothered to take the Apple AirPods out his ears – either one – for the entire round, even wearing them for the picture Woods posted on Instagram himself.

Marky Mark, you don't have to be his thunder buddy but at least show the man some common decency. He's still Tiger Freakin' Woods. Who is supposed to fake laugh at one of Tiger's patented hilarious dad jokes if all of his playing partners suddenly start listening to music during their rounds?

On a related note, guess Tigers are the only animals that Wahlberg won't talk to.

Something tells me this whole criminal thing isn't going to work out for these two.

Drinks were on John Daly Sunday after his hole-in-one at the Chubb Classic. But how many drinks? Well, that depends on who he’s drinking with.

If it’s with U.S. Olympian John Daly, the answer is, A LOT.

That's right, there's an American skeleton (headfirst luge for you newbs) racer competing in PyeongChang, South Korea, with the same name as the two-time major champ, and he couldn't help himself when asked about the similarity, jokingly saying he could keep up at the bar.

Of course, Daly (the golfer) wasn't just going to sit idly by while his name was dragged through the mud, tweeting out, basically, be careful what you wish for.

Somehow, someway, sliding headfirst down a frozen patch of ice with very little protection seems like a better idea than challenging Long John to a drinking contest. Just ask Andrew 'Beef' Johnston how it turned out.

If someone quits Twitter but they don't leave a long, drawn-out message on Twitter about why they're quitting Twitter before doing so, then did they even quit Twitter?

That's the riddle surrounding Lydia Ko's disappearance from the social media platform, one that the South Park Police Department would call, "suspicious."

The former LPGA world No. 1 has gone through all kinds of changes over the last couple of seasons, and added this curious move (on top of switching out her swing coach and caddie to start this season) because she said the app was “taking up [too much] storage on my phone.”

Whatever the reason, whether it be the storage issue she mentioned, or Twitter being a giant cesspool of negativity, here's to hoping it brings Ko happiness and a return to the winner's circle for the first time since 2016.

But we're sad to see her go.

After all, if people aren't freaking out on Twitter, what are we going to focus on here in The Social?

Rory McIlroy said last week after playing with Tiger Woods at the Genesis Open that the 14-time major champ gives up two strokes a tournament dealing with the hoopla that comes with being Tiger Woods.

That hasn't deterred John Peterson, who was on Twitter Monday openly recruiting Woods to play on his team for the Zurich Classic.

The April New Orleans PGA Tour stop switched to a team format last year, with Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith joining forces to win the first title.

Peterson followed up his original tweet by asking how many retweets he'd need to make it happen. We're no experts here, but probably more than the 132 it had at the time of this publication.

Peterson's followers had some fun with the request, applauding his effort as a shooter:

And hey, who knows, stranger things have happened. While the two may seem like an unlikely pairing, they have some stuff in common – Peterson won the 2012 Coca-Cola Walmart Open and Tiger, we think, has heard of an establishment known as Walmart.

So yeah, you could say the two are basically best friends at this point.