Arnie: Palmer born, raised and forever in Latrobe

By Bailey MosierSeptember 10, 2014, 10:00 am

Arnold Palmer had been particularly uneasy about this night’s speech. He’d made hundreds of speeches before, and was never one to disappoint, but this night was different.

He didn’t have a script, but then again, he never did. He once addressed a joint session of Congress, and before he was called to the floor of the House, aides asked for the written script. There wasn't one.

There were no politicians, dignitaries or celebrities in the room this night. No, this room was filled with people important to Palmer not for the characters they played in the public eye, but for the character they portrayed in everyday life.

It was his 50-year high school reunion, where former classmates and teammates gathered at Latrobe Country Club in Latrobe, Pa., to reminisce, swap stories and catch up with the man they knew as a boy. The man, who, despite all his worldwide fame and fortune, was still just Arnie Palmer to them. They didn’t share the same bloodline, but these people were family.

When the time came for Palmer to speak – just like so many times before – he knew exactly what to say:

"We've all gone a lot of places since our days growing up here in Latrobe. And if there's one thing I've learned in all those years, it's this: Your hometown is not where you're from. It's who you are."

Arnold Palmer was born on September 10, 1929 – the first child of Deacon and Doris Palmer in Latrobe, a small steel town 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

The Palmers lived in a modest house near the fifth hole of Latrobe Country Club, where Deacon was the club pro and greenskeeper. Arnold’s mother kept the pro-shop books and oversaw the family finances. When Arnold was 2, his sister Lois Jean (later nicknamed Cheech) was born.

Arnold and his sister were born just as the Great Depression’s effects were taking hold on America. Cheech recalls only two rooms in their house having heat – the kitchen and living room, thanks to a fireplace. While not affluent, the Palmers made enough to get by.

"We always had enough to eat,” Cheech said, “but I can still hear Daddy saying, 'By God if you put that on your plate you'd better eat it.’”

Fortunately, Arnold’s childhood isn’t characterized by what was in the Palmer bank account, but by the richness of love he received from his family and the town.

“Arnold had a great childhood, almost an American idol of childhood,”  said James Dodson, co-author of Palmer's autobiography, "A Golfer's Life." “He grew up with the free run of the golf course and the creeks around Latrobe, and he was an athletic kid. He played a lot of different sports. … He loved being outdoors; he never wanted to be indoors. He was in creeks and always in the middle. He was a scrapper – a lot of fist fights.”

In his autobiography, Palmer shared two of his earliest memories.

The first: When he was 3 years old and carrying a fresh quart of milk up his grandmother’s three front steps, he tripped and fell on the milk bottle, shattering the glass and slicing nearly the entire side of his left hand.

“I suspect I may have cried,” Palmer later recalled, “though perhaps not. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if I didn’t, because even then I knew my father and my grandfather were tough and seemingly unsentimental men, and I instinctively knew I wanted to be like them.”

The second memory: “When I was 3 … my father put my hands in his and placed them around the shaft of a cut-down women’s golf club. He showed me the classic overlay, or Vardon, grip – the proper grip for a good golf swing, he said – and told me to hit the golf ball."

“Hit it hard, boy," Deacon said. "Go find it and hit it hard again.”

Arnold Palmer gives a tour of Latrobe CC

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While he excelled at golf, Palmer was indifferent in school.

“Admittedly, I wasn’t the best student in high school,” he said. “I made decent marks in math because it had a useful purpose on the golf course (keeping score and tallying up bets), and pretty ordinary ones in English and history.”

Deacon was the head pro at Latrobe County Club, but back in the 1930s, club pros were not particularly respected by the membership they served. The Palmers weren’t allowed to play the course except early mornings before members arrived or late evenings after they'd left. Despite the restrictions, Arnie squeezed golf in whenever he could.

When he wasn’t with his dad or his dad’s work crew, he was sometimes permitted to hack a ball around in the rough. Occasionally, when nobody was looking, he’d sneak onto the putting green for a few moments of practice.

Before he turned 8, Palmer broke 100 for 18 holes and could hit the ball more than 150 yards – a feat that turned out to pay dividends.

“On summer days, I’d hang around the ladies’ tee near the sixth hole waiting for Mrs. Fritz to come along. An irrigation ditch crossed the fairway about 100 yards out, and Mrs. Fritz could never quite carry it. ‘Arnie,’ she’d call over to me sweetly, ‘come here and I’ll give you a nickel to hit my ball over that ditch.’"

He never once failed.

The swimming pool, dining room, locker room and club lounge at Latrobe CC were also off limits to the Palmers.

"I was raised in a country-club atmosphere, but I was never able to touch it,” Arnold said. “It was like looking at a piece of cake and knowing how good it was, but not being able to take a bite."

Because Arnie and Cheech were forbidden to swim at the club, they frolicked in a rock-edged stream that skirted the golf course and their house near the old sixth hole.

“Ironically, that creek was the source of the pool’s water, and our favorite running joke for years was that we at least got to pee in the club’s swimming pool water before the country club kids did,” Palmer said.

On Friday nights, Deacon and Doris would take their kids to the movies. Afterward, Deacon hosted a big poker game at the Palmer house, and on Saturday nights, Doris often prepared a feast and invited couples to come over and play cards.

By age 11, Palmer was caddying at the club, which meant he got to play with other caddies when the course was closed on Mondays. His game improved rapidly, and he won the club’s caddie tournament five times.

Latrobe CC had small, moist greens that best received a low, hard shot, and Palmer groomed his game around hitting low liners that would land and roll rather than high shots that would land softly. He became adept at hitting a 1-iron and could get 210 to 230 yards out of it. Latrobe CC had very few bunkers, and Arnold’s father wouldn’t allow him to chip and scuff around the greens. As a result, Arnold’s short game was his weak link for years.

A dozen years after Arnold was born, Deacon and Doris felt financially secure enough to have more children. Arnold’s brother Jerry was born in 1944, his sister Sandy in 1948.

Beginning at age 12, Palmer began playing junior tournaments around Pennsylvania. He shot 71 to win his first-ever high school match. He won the West Penn Junior, five West Penn Amateur titles, the Pennsylvania State High School Championship twice and then enrolled at Wake Forest on a golf scholarship.

He regards his years at Wake Forest as some of the happiest of his life.

“Out from under my father’s stern sphere of influence for the very first time, I spread my wings and had a hell of a lot of fun, forged a host of lifelong friendships and got my first taste of winning golf tournaments on a national level,” Palmer said. He was a two-time winner of the Southern Conference Championship and two-time National Intercollegiate medalist.

But his Wake Forest years were also marked by tragedy. His best friend, Buddy Worsham, whom he had followed to Wake Forest, was killed in a car accident in 1950.

Arnold Palmer at Wake Forest

Palmer (L) with Buddy Worsham (R) and W.F. coach Johnny Johnston

Palmer was shaken to the core and his grades rapidly declined. He dropped out of Wake Forest and enlisted in the Coast Guard. After three years of service, he received an honorable discharge and was readmitted to Wake Forest, but left again, without graduating, after one semester.

Not knowing what he wanted to do with his life, he returned to Cleveland, where he had been stationed in the Coast Guard, and took a job as a paint salesman.

Wanting to remain in golf yet not wanting to become a club pro like his father, Palmer was torn.

"Back then, the golf pro wasn't even admitted to his own clubhouse," he said. "And I was too proud to live my life as some kind of second-class citizen."

Luckily, decisions about his future became much more clear after he won the 1954 U.S. Amateur, then turned pro shortly thereafter.

Professional golf took Palmer to all corners of the earth, but he always returned to Latrobe. There, he has always been, and always will be, Arnie Palmer.

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1

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Perez (T-3) looks to remedy 'terrible' major record

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 7:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez’s major record is infinitely forgettable. In 24 Grand Slam starts he has exactly one top-10 finish, more than a decade ago at the PGA Championship.

“Terrible,” Perez said when asked to sum up his major career. “I won sixth [place]. Didn't even break top 5.”

It’s strange, however, that his status atop The Open leaderboard through two rounds doesn’t seem out of character. The 42-year-old admits he doesn’t hit it long enough to contend at most major stops and also concedes he doesn’t exactly have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the game’s biggest events, but something about The Open works for him.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I didn't like it the first time I came over. When I went to St. Andrews in '05, I didn't like it because it was cold and terrible and this and that,” he said. “Over the years, I've really learned to like to come over here. Plus the fans are so awesome here. They know a good shot. They don't laugh at you if you hit a bad shot.”

Perez gave the fans plenty to cheer on Friday at Carnoustie, playing 17 flawless holes to move into a share of the lead before a closing bogey dropped him into a tie for third place after a second-round 68.

For Perez, links golf is the great equalizer that mitigates the advantages some of the younger, more powerful players have and it brings out the best in him.

“It's hard enough that I don't feel like I have to hit perfect shots. That's the best,” he said. “Greens, you can kind of miss a shot, and it won't run off and go off the green 40 yards. You're still kind of on the green. You can have a 60-footer and actually think about making it because of the speed.”