All three talked about the nice, friendly vibe of the room at Tuesday evening’s Champions Dinner and Palmer admitted that he got emotional when Augusta National chairman Billy Payne presented Palmer with a piece of the famed Eisenhower Tree.
“I found it very enjoyable, aside from the fact that I got a little emotional about it,” Palmer said. “I enjoyed the guys and I was trying to get a message across to the young players to keep that kind of rhetoric going in the dinner. That’s what it was all about.”
Said Nicklaus: “A lot of guys made a lot of nice talks last night. It was the way the Masters dinner used to be, and it was a reason for the Masters dinner, where the players got together and the past champions and actually talked.”
Player was effusive in praise for his two longtime friends saying, “You’ve never had two better ambassadors in the history of sport than Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
“Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have probably had more publicity than any president of America ever because they’re only there for four years or eight years; they’ve been here for 50 and 60 years, so they have played a vital role in this great country.”
Conversation then turned toward Thursday’s ceremonial tee shot and each hinted that they’d try to hit it farther than the other. Until several weeks ago it was not known if Palmer would be able to join the other two because of an injured shoulder he sustained during a fall last winter.
Just to be sure, host Steve Sands asked Palmer if he was, in fact, healthy enough to take a swing off Augusta National’s first tee.
“You’re damn right I’m going to tee it up,” Palmer said.