Arnie: Winnie and Kit, the ladies in Palmer's life

By Bailey MosierSeptember 10, 2014, 10:00 am

The trajectory of Arnold Palmer’s life was forever changed in August 1954 when he won the U.S. Amateur. Little did he know, however, an even bigger surprise awaited him later that year.

After the U.S. Am, Palmer was invited to the Waite Memorial, an amateur tournament with festivities beginning Labor Day weekend in Shawnee-on-the-Delaware, Pa.

“As I was coming back into the inn (from playing a practice round), I saw a couple of pretty girls coming down the stairway that led to the main lobby,” Palmer wrote in his autobiography, "A Golfer's Life." "It was the quieter, prettier, dark-haired one that caught my eye. She had smoky good looks, and her demeanor had a clear sheen of class.”

Palmer was introduced to the two girls and shook hands with Winifred (Winnie) Walzer.

“If you don’t have anything to do, why don’t you come out and watch the golf,” Palmer said.

“Perhaps I will,” she responded with a smile.

Winnie was 19, studying interior design at Brown University’s affiliated design school at Pembroke College. The two connected at dinner the next evening.

Palmer recalled the event in his autobiography: “Winnie, I began to learn that night, was unlike any girl I’d ever met, not just pretty and comfortable in almost any situation, but also smart, well traveled (she’d just come home from a big European trip), engagingly independent minded, even something of a would-be rebel.”

The two were instantly smitten with one another, and Palmer walked away that week with two trophies – he won the tournament, and Winnie accepted his marriage proposal.

“They were very close,” Cori Britt, vice president of Arnold Palmer Enterprises, said. “He always called her ‘lover.’ ‘Hey, lover, how you doing?’ They were hand-holders, they were huggers, they were very close. It was sweet.”

Arnold Palmer and family

Arnold Palmer and family in Latrobe, Pa., in 1962 (AP)

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Arnold and Winnie originally planned on a spring wedding and a honeymoon in England after the 1955 Walker Cup (in which Palmer was set to play in St. Andrews, Scotland), but the two grew impatient and plans changed. Winnie wasn’t old enough to wed without her parents' permission, and her father never liked the idea of Winnie marrying a future struggling golf pro, who he doubted could properly provide for his daughter.

With help from Arnold’s sister Lois Jean, or "Cheech" as she was known, who was living with her husband, Ron, in Alexandria, Va., all the arrangements for an elopement were taken care of – the church, the minister and the reception – and Arnold and Winnie got married five days before Christmas in 1954.

“That was the beginning of a 45-year journey of learning,” Palmer wrote in "A Golfer's Life," “through the usual marital ups and downs, through Tour triumphs and personal disappointments she’ll never speak of, all magnified by my evolving success … I was just beginning to discover what I’d really found.”

Winnie traveled with Arnold when he first set out on Tour, but by Christmas 1955, Winnie was far along with the couple’s first child. They knew traveling and living out of suitcases would be difficult with a family, so they built a home in Palmer's birth town of Latrobe, Pa. Peggy was born in February 1956, and the couple had another daughter, Amy, two years later. Winnie stayed home to care for the children and help Arnold with finances and other business matters.

"Winnie has always tried to stay out of the limelight,” Palmer's longtime assistant, Doc Giffin, said. “Over the years, she's declined 10 times as many interviews as she's granted to people who wanted to talk to Mrs. Arnold Palmer. But she's always been there for Arnold when he needed her. She was the mainstay in raising two wonderful daughters. She kept the house and did all the cooking herself. In the early years, she handled a lot of Arnold's business arrangements. … Personally, professionally, in every aspect of his life, Winnie has always been there for Arnold."

“She was really the glue for all of our family,” Arnold and Winnie’s daughter Amy said. “She was just the most accommodating person ever. She had deep, meaningful relationships with everyone, and I think she knew what my father needed and was willing to take a back seat anytime she needed to make sure to put everybody else out front, when in fact she was the one that was so often the person behind the scene and I think she did amazing things juggling and raising a family and trying to be there for my father.”

Winnie died at age 65 on Nov. 20, 1999, from complications of ovarian cancer.

“Just losing her, I mean she was so much to so many of us,” Cheech said. “She’s my best friend, although I wasn’t (in Latrobe) very much; I lived in Washington. But they came through Washington all the time, we got to see each other a lot. She and I went on a lot of trips together, she was so much a part of us. I think my mother and dad loved her as much as they loved the rest of us. She just fit in perfectly.”

“I don’t think there’s ever been anything like Mrs. Palmer and there never will. She was a special lady,” Britt said.

Six years after Winnie died, Arnold married Kathleen (Kit) Gawthrop.

Arnold and Kit Palmer

Arnold and Kit during their first dance as newlyweds in 2005 (Getty)

“It was just a breath of fresh air,” Hollis Cavner, director of the Champions Tour's 3M Championship, said. “What he’d went through with Winnie, and to find Kit, the love he’s got with her now, it really helped him tremendously. … She’s been super for him and a lot of fun to be around. She was absolutely the perfect thing for Arnold to get him back to being the Arnold we know and love.”

Palmer wasn’t the only one happy to welcome Kit into his life.

“I think they were so totally different, my mother and Kit,” Amy (Palmer) Saunders said. “I think the companionship that Kit loves to watch sports, she loves to be at home and I think that’s really what my dad needs. I think he needed someone that enjoys the things he enjoys and I think that everybody embraced Kit in a way that I don’t think, I hope that she never felt that there was this looming presence of my mother.”

There is a looming presence of Winnie, but in a positive way.

“I don’t think it’s hard (living in Winnie’s shadow),” Kit said. "I think it’s nice to see (Winnie ever-present in Arnold’s life at Bay Hill), where she lived and the influence she had here.”

Of all the fortunes Palmer has acquired over the years, where he really struck it rich was in having found two women to share his life who shared him with the world. Both Winnie and Kit understood that as many perks as they would receive from being Mrs. Arnold Palmer, their relationship would be defined by what they gave … to Arnold and as a result, to the world. 

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Tiger putts way into contention at The Open

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 5:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – When Tiger Woods benched his trusty Scotty Cameron blade putter last month at the Quicken Loans National for a new TaylorMade mallet-headed version some saw it as a sign of desperation, but if his performance on Carnoustie’s greens on Saturday were any indication it could end up being a calculated success.

Woods stormed into contention on Day 3 with a 5-under 66 to move to within shouting distance of the lead at The Open, thanks in large part to his vastly improved putting.

“I hit so many good putts out there today, and this week from distance, I've had really good feels,” said Woods, whose 29 putts on Saturday belies his performance on Carnoustie’s greens. “Even as this golf course was changing and evolving, I've maintained my feels with the putter. I've made a couple of putts from about 40 to 60 feet, which is nice. I just feel like I've been able to roll the ball.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

The highlight of Woods’ round came at the par-4 ninth hole when he charged in a 40-footer for birdie from the front edge of the green to begin a run of three consecutive birdies. Perhaps more impressive, he didn’t have a three-putt, and has only had two all week, which is always a bonus on links courses.

Woods temporarily took a share of the lead with a lengthy birdie putt at the 14th hole and scrambled for a par save at the last after his drive nearly found the Barry Burn.

“I hit a few putts that I think should have gone in from 20, 30 feet today," he said. "So that's always a good sign.”

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TT postscript: A 66, he's in contention - awesome

By Tiger TrackerJuly 21, 2018, 4:58 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods went berserk Saturday and shot 5-under 66 to vault up the leaderboard at The Open at Carnoustie:


At 4:13PM here in Scotland, when Tiger two-putted for birdie on the par-5 14th hole, he held a share of the lead in a major championship. It was once unthinkable, but it happened. I saw it with my own eyes.

• Tiger’s last two weekend rounds in the 60s in The Open both happened at Carnoustie and both happened on July 21. In 2007, Woods shot 69 here. On Saturday, that score was clipped by three shots. Tiger shot 65 in the second round of The Open at Royal Liverpool in 2006. He won his third claret jug that week. Tiger last shoot 66 in a major during the second round of the 2011 Masters.

• This is the sixth time that Tiger has recorded three consecutive rounds of par of better to start The Open. He went on to win three of the previous five times.

• One bad swing, the only bad swing of the day according to Tiger, produced the luckiest of breaks. Standing on the 18th tee with an iron in hand, Tiger pulled his tee shot that hit on the top of the Barry Burn and very easily could’ve ended in a watery grave. Instead it ended in thick rough, some 250 yards from the pin. Tiger punted it up the fairway, but got up and down from 83 yards to save par and shoot 66. “I hit my number,” he quipped about hitting wedge to 2 feet.

• On the other hand, the lone bogey came from one poor putt. On the par-3 16th hole, with half of Scotland screaming his name, Tiger missed a 7-footer for par. It was deflating at the time because the last three holes are so difficult. Pars on the last two holes were stellar.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• Final stats: 12 of 15 fairways, 14 of 18 greens and 29 total putts. Tiger hit six drivers and one 3-wood, proving that he was way more aggressive. He hit four drivers on Friday and only one on Thursday.

• One of the aforementioned drivers that he hit on the ninth hole was well left and in some thick round, 170 yards from the hole. A safe approach to 40 feet set him up for and easy two-putt par. But he slammed the putt home and made an improbable birdie. “I hit so many good putts out there today, and this week from distance, I’ve had really good feels,” he said.

• In his own words about his chances of winning: “It certainly is possible. I’ve shown that I’ve been there close enough with a chance to win this year. Given what happened the last few years, I didn’t know if that would ever happen again, but here I am with a chance coming Sunday in a major championship. It’s going to fun.”

Yes, yes it is.

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Watch: Guy sleeps next to many beers at Open

By Grill Room TeamJuly 21, 2018, 4:55 pm

It's Moving Day at The Open Championship for all but one sedentary fan.

Cameras caught this potentially browned-out man having himself a Saturday snooze on the browned-out grasses of Carnoustie:

Browned out. That's a great term. Glad it's in the public domain. We've been using it all weekend. I imagine we'll continue to use it. A lot.

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Watch: Tiger makes 6 birdies, 1 amazing par in Rd. 3

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 4:10 pm

Tiger Woods started the third round of The Open at even par, having made seven birdies and seven bogeys over the first 36 holes at Carnoustie.

Following three pars to start on Saturday, Woods went on a birdie binge.

No. 1 came with this putt at the par-4 fourth.

No. 2 with this two-putt at the par-5 sixth.

No. 3 thanks to this 30-footer at the par-4 ninth.

No. 4 after nearly jarring his approach shot on the par-4 10th.

No. 5 when he almost drove the green at the par-4 11th and two-putted, from just off the green, from 95 feet.

And No. 6, which gave him a share of the lead, came courtesy another two-putt at the par-5 14th.

Woods bogeyed the par-3 16th to drop out of the lead and almost dropped - at least - one more shot at the par-4 18th. But his tee shot got a lucky bounce and he turned his good fortune into a par.

Woods shot 5-under 66 and finished the day at 5 under par.