Memories of a larger-than-life figure

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2016, 5:30 pm

Editor's note: Rex Hoggard visited Arnold Palmer in Latrobe, Pa., in September 2015.

ATLANTA – Of the thousands of trophies, photographs and keepsakes that cover the walls of Arnold Palmer’s office in Latrobe, Pa., it was a cryptic letter tucked into a corner that stood out.

Donald “Doc” Giffin, Palmer’s spokesman, confidant and friend of nearly 50 years, gazes at the missive from behind coke-bottle glasses. “This is really something,” he says.

Dear Arnie:

Enclosed is payment for my bet – and never was there one more reluctantly paid.

Over the course of a career that included seven major championship victories, 62 PGA Tour titles and enough winks and knowing smiles to delight an army, there must have been more bets paid to the King than even the IRS could track.

Why would this particular wager, which includes a dog-eared and sun-faded $10, rate a spot on the wall in Arnie’s office?

A wedge shot from the first green at Latrobe Country Club, where his father, Deke, taught him the game, Arnie’s office is exactly what one would expect from a man who single-handedly lifted the game from niche curiosity to a sport of genuine appeal.

There are photos of his signature victories at the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open, and models of the private jets that became as much a part of his appeal as that slashing swing and knowing smile.

Also attached is a picture cut from the Philadelphia Inquirer. It indicates dejection; please remember that a couple of accidents will not be important a year from now. You’ll win a lot more tournaments and forget all the woe caused by bridges, rocks and complaints about a tree.

And of course there is Arnie’s famous workshop, stacked full with every imaginable golf club, putter and gadget. Boxes of leather straps sit in a corner. He likes a certain kind of grip on his clubs ... every club, so along with an assortment of loft and lie machines, a Stimpmeter and other items of golf nerd interest is a machine to re-grip golf clubs. So many golf clubs.

There’s a Pittsburgh Pirates jersey in another corner complete with Palmer’s name, a Steelers helmet and a U.S. Ryder Cup bag - he went 2-0 as a captain.

The room is a testament to a life well lived and the man who lived it. Disheveled, like Palmer as he stalked up Augusta National’s 18th hole in 1958 to claim his first green jacket, and gritty, like that ’60 U.S. Open triumph at Cherry Hills when he held off some young gun named Jack Nicklaus.

Woe? What woe, Arnie’s life is a golden era movie and he’s a larger-than-life leading man.

He paved the way for every generation that followed, transcending golf, transcending sport. He made golf cool.

Love to Winnie and keep hitting them!

All the best. As ever,


The letter, dated Aug. 14, 1965, has no return address, no further explanation.

Giffin’s smile widens. There’s a story to tell and he loves telling stories.

The bet, Giffin explains, was that Arnie would win the 1965 PGA Championship, the lone leg of the career Grand Slam that eluded the King in his career.

The ’65 PGA was moved to Laurel Valley, which is a short drive from Latrobe, and after coming close so many times at his missing major, this one was Arnie’s.

A home game in his prime.

So Arnie took the bet, his friend adamant this would be his time. Crazy, right? Arnie betting against himself, but there it is, on the wall with the cash to prove it.

The week started poorly for Arnie at that PGA with a first-round 72 and things only got worse. He hit a 60-foot fir tree that had been planted adjacent to the third hole after the practice rounds to keep players from trying to cut a corner.

There was a penalty shot when one of Arnie’s tee shots caromed off a bridge, and the hometown hero would finish tied for 33rd, a PGA bridesmaid again.

Next to the letter is a Sports Illustrated cover from September 1969. The headline reads “Farewell to an Era: Arnold Palmer turns 40.” Its place on the wall seems ironic, like the letter, considering Arnie would go on to win eight more PGA Tour titles after it was published.

Giffin reminds Arnie of those eight victories.

“I started late, you have to think about that. I was 25 when I really started playing professional golf, so I was fortunate that I was still able to win and be a participant in the game,” he says. “I still play to win, but I’m too old now.”

Not winning the PGA, even the PGA at Laurel Valley, seems silly now after so many years, so many accomplishments. Arnie has hospitals named after him, a Tour event that still draws the game’s best players, an army that still marches for him. A legacy that will never be duplicated.

Fast-forward a year, to the Tour Championship and Rory McIlroy is asked what Arnie means to him. His eyes begin to glaze over and he pauses, the burden of emotion more than an attempt to collect his thoughts causing the delay.

“Arnie put the game on the map. I don’t think any other sports person in any other sport did for their profession what Arnie did for the game,” says McIlory, who pulled off an Arnie-esque victory on Sunday at East Lake. “He left a legacy that I’m not sure anyone else in sport has left.”

So, who was D.D.E.? Giffin lets the question linger for a few moments. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president and a lifelong friend of Arnie’s.

Arnie died on Sunday. He was 87.

His appeal was universal, his triumphs, his humility, his passion contagious. You always rooted for Arnie whether you were a president, a FedEx Cup champion or a golf writer, because he was the best part of the game.

Getty Images

PNC Extends Title Sponsorship of PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 19, 2018, 1:00 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., April 19, 2018 – IMG and NBC Sports today announced that The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. has extended its contract as title sponsor of the PNC Father/Son Challenge, the tournament that pairs the games’ legends alongside their sons, daughters and grandchildren.

PNC’s multi-year extension as title sponsor keeps the PGA Tour Challenge Event in Orlando reflecting the bank’s commitment to Central Florida. PNC has served as title sponsor of the tournament since 2012. The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes will continue to play host to the PNC Father/Son Challenge. The 2018 PNC Father/Son Challenge will take place Friday-Sunday, Dec. 14-16, with television coverage on Golf Channel and NBC.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge long ago became one of my family’s favorite golf tournaments,” said 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus. “I have had the pleasure of playing with my sons, and last year, partnering with my 15-year-old grandson GT was a thrill. I am delighted the event—a uniquely special one to us fathers and grandfathers, and perhaps to the many fans out there watching from home or outside the ropes—will continue for many years to come.”

“After our victory in 2016, I said that this win was as good as anything I have done in my career,” said former World No. 1 and major champion David Duval, who alongside his stepson Nick Karavites captured the 2016 title. “I felt blessed to have Nick inside the ropes with me and to have our family surrounding us all week. That’s what makes the PNC Father/Son Challenge so special, and I’m pleased to hear that PNC has extended its support of the event. This golf tournament means so much to all of us who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to play in this event.”

The tournament also holds three events in qualifier markets per year. This year they will be in Dallas, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge allows fans to see golf’s legends playing the game they love alongside those they love most,” said Alastair Johnston, vice chairman, IMG. “We are grateful for PNC’s ongoing support of this unique tournament and we look forward to returning to Orlando to celebrate golf and family for many years to come.”

Community support is a key aspect of the tournament and PNC’s sponsorship. PNC is committed to donating $150,000 annually to local non-profits over the life of its sponsorship. Across six previous years of title sponsorship, PNC has already donated $900,000 to Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation and the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children to support the “Healthy Families Orange” program. Over the years, PNC has also had the opportunity through this tournament to co-host events for local women in business, to put on clinics and provide free access to the tournament for active military, and even provide a service dog for a local veteran.

"PNC's long-standing sponsorship of the Father/Son Challenge reflects the philanthropic values we share with the PGA Tour and the golf community, as well as our focus on strong relationships,” said Bill Demchak, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The PNC Financial Services Group. “As PNC Bank continues to expand its footprint, the PNC Father/Son tournament helps us gain visibility with new audiences and to strengthen the relationships we enjoy today with more than 8 million retail, wealth, and corporate and institutional banking customers across the country.”

“NBC Sports is extremely proud of our heritage as co-founder for the Father/Son Challenge, one of golf’s most special events that closes out the calendar year on the golf schedule,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports. “Our relationship with PNC Bank elevates this event each year as a must-attend and must-see event for players and fans alike, and we look forward to our continued relationship with PNC Bank for years to come.”

Past winners of the PNC Father/Son Challenge include some of the biggest names in golf including Raymond Floyd (1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001), Jack Nicklaus (1999), Bernhard Langer (2005-06, 2014), Davis Love III (2012) and David Duval (2016).  Masters champion Angel Cabrera and his son, Angel Cabrera Jr. captured the 2017 title.

To qualify for the PNC Father/Son Challenge, participants must have won either a major championship or THE PLAYERS Championship in their career. The professional’s partner must not currently hold a Tour card, and while the majority of partners in the history of the event have been the sons of the golf legends, the family-themed tournament has seen daughters, grandsons and one father – Justin Leonard’s dad, Larry – participate over the years.

The PNC Father/Son Challenge is operated in partnership by IMG and NBC Sports.

Getty Images

Fire damages National Golf Links of America clubhouse

By Will GrayApril 19, 2018, 12:55 pm

A fire broke out Wednesday at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y., causing "extensive damage" to a portion of the historic course's clubhouse.

According to a report, an initial call was made to the Southampton police department about a fire on the roof of the clubhouse at 11:34 a.m. With the club's gates too narrow to fit a fire truck through, more than 100 firefighters from various departments helped douse the flames by transporting water up a hill to the east side of the clubhouse.

The fire was reportedly extinguished by 2:30 p.m., with no injuries requiring medical attention. According to a Golf Digest report, the club was undergoing construction on its outdoor eating area known as "the Birdcage" and that most of the club's historical documents reside on the opposite end of the clubhouse from where the fire broke out and was contained.

Opened in 1911, National Golf Links of America was designed by C.B. MacDonald and hosted the inaugural Walker Cup in 1922. The biennial matches returned in 2013 to NGLA, which is often rated among the top courses in the U.S. and sits adjacent to Shinnecock Hills, site of this summer's U.S. Open.

Getty Images

Chappell returns to Valero as defending champ

By Will GrayApril 18, 2018, 9:48 pm

It's impossible for any of the players at this week's Valero Texas Open to forget who captured the trophy last year.

That's because most players stay at the JW Marriott hotel that's a short walk from the first tee at TPC San Antonio, and the defending champion's face is emblazoned on the hotel's room keys. This week, that honor belongs to Kevin Chappell.

"You get some sly comments from players about their room key," Chappell told reporters Wednesday. "'Oh, I'm tired of looking at you.' And I'm saying, 'Believe me, I'm tired of being in everyone's room.'"

The position of defending champ is one Chappell relishes this week as he returns to the site of his maiden PGA Tour victory. A one-shot win over Brooks Koepka led to a euphoric celebration on the 72nd green, and it helped propel Chappell to his first career spot on the Presidents Cup team in October.

Chappell has missed the cut each of the last two weeks, including the Masters, but he also recorded top-10 finishes at the CareerBuilder Challenge, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Arnold Palmer Invitational. It's reason enough for Chappell to feel optimistic heading back to a course where he was a runner-up in 2011 and finished T-4 in 2016.

"This year's been a little bit of a strange year for me. I usually don't find form until about here, usually a slow starter," Chappell said. "But having three top-10s before this event, I've kind of found some form. I'm looking to turn those top-10s into top-5s, and the top-5s into wins. That's the challenge moving forward this year."

Getty Images

Scott returns to Valero with major streak in jeopardy

By Will GrayApril 18, 2018, 8:34 pm

Adam Scott is back in the Lone Star State as he looks to keep alive a majors streak that has stretched across nearly two decades.

The Aussie tends to play a relatively light schedule during the spring, often times skipping every event between the Masters and The Players. But this time around he opted to return to the Valero Texas Open for the first time since 2011 in an effort to capitalize on the form he found two weeks ago at Augusta National, where he tied for 32nd.

"Hopefully kind of pick up where I left off on the weekend, which was really solid, and get a bit of momentum going because that's what I haven't had this year," Scott told reporters. "Trying to put four good rounds together and get the most out of my game for a change."

Scott has won each of the four stroke-play events held annually in Texas, completing the so-called "Texas Slam" before the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play relocated to Austin. That includes his win at TPC San Antonio back in 2010, when he closed with rounds of 66-67 for a one-shot victory.

After a seven-year hiatus, Scott is back San Antonio after a solid but underwhelming spring stretch. He cracked the top 20 at both the Honda Classic and Valspar Championship, but his worldwide top-10 drought stretches back nearly a year to the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June. As a result, the former world No. 1 has dropped to No. 59 in the latest rankings.

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

"I'm trying to be really in tune with where my game's at and identify why I'm just not having better results," Scott said. "To kind of change that, I've got to change something, otherwise I'm just going to do the same thing."

That ranking will become even more important in the coming weeks as Scott looks to keep his streak of consecutive majors intact. He has played in 67 straight dating back to The Open in 2001, second only to Sergio Garcia's 75 among active players. But Scott's five-year exemption for winning the 2013 Masters has run its course, meaning he is not yet exempt for the upcoming U.S. Open.

Barring a win next month at TPC Sawgrass, Scott's only way to avoid a trip to sectional qualifying will be to maintain a position inside the top 60 in the world rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The key for Scott remains easy to identify but hard to fix. While he ranks fifth on Tour this season in strokes gained: tee-to-green, he's 194th in strokes gained: putting. Scott won in consecutive weeks in 2016 with a short putter, but otherwise has largely struggled on the greens since the anchoring ban took effect more than two years ago.

"Hopefully a quick turnaround here and things start going in the right direction, because I think I can have a really great back end of the season," Scott said. "My ball-striking is where I want it; I like where my short game's at. I just need to get a bit of momentum going on the greens. It's easy to do that on the putting green at home, but that doesn't always translate out here. I think I've just got to make it happen out here."