Palmer, a pioneer among athletes who fly their own planes, expressed shock Thursday at the death of New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, killed Wednesday with his flight instructor when their plane hit a 40-story condominium tower in New York.
'I'm terribly sorry,' the 77-year-old Palmer said. 'I've lost a number of friends the same way. I've been flying all my life. When I started playing the tour, I started flying. It's the greatest thing that could ever happen to me and to see a tragedy such as this, well, I just can't tell you how I feel about it.'
Palmer, who joined the PGA TOUR in 1955, will make a rare tournament appearance beginning Friday in the Administaff Small Business Classic on the Champions Tour.
He flew here from his home in Latrobe, Pa., and plans to continue flying.
'It's a convenience, it's a business tool for me and it's also one that I enjoy doing,' Palmer said. 'I've been doing it 18,000 hours. That's almost a lifetime in itself.'
In earlier years, Palmer was known for flying over a tournament course and tipping a wing to the gallery.
'I used to do that quite a lot and then the rules for flying got a little restricted and you can't do that as much as I used to,' Palmer said.
Palmer said his game is not where he'd like it to be, but he still enjoys playing golf and mixing with the fans.
'I hope to finish; my golf isn't too good,' Palmer said. 'I enjoy the people and what's happening. I'm grateful they still want to see me top a golf ball.'
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