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Editors Note: 72-year-old Arnold Palmer will play in and host the Bay Hill Invitational. Rich Lerner reflects on the legend in an essay he prepared for Palmers eighth appearance on Golf Talk Live.
When Arnold Palmer stops to sign an autograph ' which is often ' hell look at you as if maybe hes seen you somewhere before, or maybe met your uncle or your dad or a friend of yours.
Funny thing is, he just may have. After all, has any star through the years connected with more people more easily than Arnold Palmer?
Has any man possessed the combination, underline COMBINATION, of skill AND personality more potently than Arnold Palmer?
Has anyone whos ever profited so handsomely from this game looked more apt to play it for free simply because they love it so much than Arnold Palmer?
Arnold Palmers wins always felt like our wins. That moment when he hurled his visor to the crowd at Cherry Hills, after hed roared back to take the 1960 U.S. Open, stands among the most jubilant in golf history. Its replayed so often because it represents the sweet joy of victory owned not solely by the player, but shared with an adoring public. Golfs greatest competitions are just glorified money matches without galleries. And nobody loved galleries, and was so loved back, as Arnold Palmer.
Age loses to no man ultimately. That match, if it could be called one, is sometimes uncomfortable to witness when the man was at once so strong and invulnerable.
Fortunately, people who play this game, those people who still come out to say hello to him and who have always loved Arnie - his style, his generosity of spirit - those people get it. They know that in the end, in golf, the things that last long after the putts stop falling are a genuine love for the sport and a good, friendly personality. With those, you can always get a game.
Of course, Arnie has never, ever been afraid of a good fight. He gave age a swift kick in the behind at last years Bob Hope. Yeah, the score on the card on the fourth day of a PGA Tour event read the same as the one on his birth certificate - 71! Not bad.
But not great in Arnies eyes. Naturally, he was disappointed that it wasnt 68, disappointed that he didnt make the cut, disappointed that hes not shooting par more often. Thats how the great ones are. But its also how most people who play this game are. Trying to get better, trying to knock a couple of strokes off with one little adjustment. And so it is with Arnie. Hes at once great, and ordinary. Uncommon and common, in all the right ways.
In the wake of prostate cancer surgery as well as the passing of his beloved wife, Winnie, Arnold Palmer wrote in his autobiography that he had so much more to accomplish in life.
He wrote, too, that theres something magical about finishing a round in the dusk, as hed done so often as a boy growing up in Latrobe, Pa.
Hes never stopped playing that magical round. His fans have never tired of watching. And theres still plenty of sunlight left in the day. Who knows, maybe we could get in another 18?