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Our Letter to the King – “Dear Mr. Palmer…”

Dear Mr. Palmer,

arnold-palmer-ryder-cup-captainJust a short note from us down here to say “Thank you!”

From those of us who were young boys and girls in the 1960s, thank you for bringing the game of golf into our living room (where the only black and white television in the house was at the time) where our families could watch together and cheer for you.  For those of us who were born later (with color televisions), thank you for when you kissed us as babies, invited us inside the ropes and charmed us with the caring manner you showed to all.

Thank you from those of us who grew up on municipal courses, with unorthodox swings. You gave us hope that we too could play this game well.  “Connected the masses” you did indeed.

Our sincere thanks for being so gracious with everyone you met, sacrificing your private time so that others might have joy in being around you. Somehow, somewhere you developed incredible penmanship, which sculpted a beautiful signature over and over again, an autograph that so many of us treasure and only have because of your kindness and generosity.

arnold-palmer-imageThank you for not stopping with golf, but also becoming successful in business, aeronautics, golf course design and being an incredible philanthropist. Your work has changed and saved so many lives, more than you will ever know.

Thank you for making the Open Championship an important stop in your schedule, for driving the 1 green at Cherry Hills in the 1960 US Open and changing everything, for embracing a group of soldiers from Fort Hood early on at Augusta and for making us all feel like a friend throughout the years.

You said that your mark would be left if the young people you encountered would make an effort to leave the game in better shape than when they found it. That mark has been emblazed for all to see forever.

Half and half lemonade and iced teas for the house.

Godspeed, Mr. Palmer.

Your friends at Worldwide Golf Shops

P.S. Our sincere thanks for taking the time with us several years ago with our Father’s Day podcast (below).

Tom Brassell:  Welcome to GolfBetter at Edwin Watts Golf, episode 105. Hello everyone, my name is Tom Brassell. Thanks so much for joining us. Seems like we say it every time, but we mean it if you’re a first-time listener or a long-time subscriber, either way, you’ve found your way to us and we’re glad you’re with us. Kenny, I’m glad you’re with me today because this is going to be a good one.

Kenny Nicholson: Absolutely. One of the joys of this job is this particular podcast show that we do. Today’s guest is wow, all I can say. Just truly amazing.

Tom Brassell:  Yeah, we’ve been 100 plus episodes. I think if we retired after this one, it’d probably be complete. The winner of 7 major championships, 4 of them masters, 1 US Open, 2 Open championships, and also the US Amateur, the man who brought the game to us on TV, the man who brought the game into our living room, and the man we all love and follow, Mr. Arnold Palmer. Mr. Palmer, thanks so much for joining us today.

Arnold Palmer:   Well thank you, it’s nice to be with you.

Tom Brassell:   An early, happy Father’s Day to you, Mr. Palmer.

Arnold Palmer:  Tom, thank you.

Tom Brassell:   Speaking of fathers, most of us got started in the game by our father. You had a real unique relationship with your father up in Latrobe, much different than most of us. Can you talk a little bit about your relationship and how you got started in the game with your pop?

Arnold Palmer:  Well, of course I was born and raised here at the Latrobe Country Club. My father started working here when they were building the golf course. He was 16 years old, and he became the green keeper and later the pro, so I was raised right on the golf course with him. That was, it was great, because I had the opportunity to be close to him and enjoy a lot of the stuff that he was doing, and learned the game of golf and the principles by which he lived while I was growing up.

Kenny Nicholson:  Can you explain or give us an idea of some of the things that your father taught you, or tips that he might have given you as a young golfer?

Arnold Palmer:  Of course he started me out pretty young. I was about 3 or 4 years old, and he put the golf club in my hands and showed me how to grip it. Then he looked at me and that stern look of his, and he said, “And don’t you ever change it.” I still grip it the same way, and that was almost 80 years ago!

Kenny Nicholson:  I read somewhere too that he also said, hit it hard boy! Right?

Arnold Palmer: That’s right. Hit it hard, and go find it, and hit it again.

Tom Brassell:   Great junior career took you down to Wake Forest there. A little known fact that a lot of people don’t know, you joined the Coast Guard for a few years and honed your game there as well in the Coast Guard for a few years, correct?

Arnold Palmer:  Well, that is correct. I was in the Coast Guard for 3 years. Probably 3 of the most productive years of my life, because I kind of matured while I was in the Coast Guard, and that was good, then. I suppose if you were talking to my father right now, he’d say, he needed it too.

Tom Brassell:   Turned pro in 1955.

Arnold Palmer:   That’s correct. I won the amateur in ’54, and really decided that I really wanted to make golf my life and turned pro in November of ’54, and started the tour in January of ’55.

Tom Brassell:    Tour life back then was a little bit different than it is these days, correct?

Arnold Palmer:  Well, it was different, although there was the same number of players in every tournament. It wasn’t the depth in the talent that there is today, and they were good, but there weren’t as many of them that were real good as there are today playing golf. That’s probably one of the big differences. I won’t say that it was better today than it was then, or vice versa, but it was certainly exciting and I feel very fortunate to have been able to go out and do what I did after winning the amateur.

Kenny Nicholson:  The thing that’s easier now obviously is traveling. One of the things that I wanted to ask was back- the importance that you placed on the British Open as an American, because most didn’t play after Hogan’s win in ’53 due to travel cost and low price money.

Arnold Palmer:   That is true, and of course it was difficult, but my father was a pretty tough guy and he said to me many times, he said if you’re going to be great and be a really recognized, great player, you have to play internationally, and you have to win internationally. Of course he put an emphasis on the Open championship, and in the year 1960 when I went, it was St. Andrews, which was very appropriate to be playing there in my British Open.

Tom Brassell: Started off on tour, you started getting it going pretty quickly. You won that first masters and it looked like in 1960 everything started coming together. You won the masters again a couple weeks before that, right in our backyard, you won the Pensacola Open. Leading up to Cherry Hills in 1960, it seems like your game was really coming together.

Arnold Palmer:  It was. It was good, and it was kind of disappointing after 3 rounds to be in the position I was in, but I really felt good about my game and I thought that if I really had a good round, I still had a chance. Well, as it turned out, I got a very good start in that last 18 holes, and really got rolling. Of course as it turned out I won by 2 shots. Probably played one of the best rounds of my life in that round.

Tom Brassell:    Let’s talk about that day, because it’s a lot different today. Back then, it was 36-hole final day, which was a physical and a mental challenge. You shot 72 in the morning, and there’s a lunch conversation I believe with you and Bob Drum that took place when you were trying to figure out what it might take for you to win this. Can you talk about that?

Arnold Palmer:  Yeah. Bob Drum was a Pittsburgh guy and a newspaper reporter, and a good friend. As a matter of fact, I did a lot of writing with Bob Drum, and considered him a particular friend. When I went in after the morning round, I saw him in the locker room and I was having a hamburger and getting ready to go for the afternoon. I said to Bob, Bob, what do you think if I shoot 65 this afternoon, would I have a chance? He looked at me in a very sarcastic look to him and he said, it wouldn’t help you at all. Well, that really upset me and I never finished my lunch. I got up and walked out and went to the practice tee and hit a couple of drives, and they called me to the tee. I went to the first tee at Cherry Hills and drove it on the green and then made a whole string of birdies. On the 8th hole I remember very well I had hit a shot into the green and here comes Bob Drum walking down the fare way [inaudible 08:10]. I looked at him and I said, what are you doing here? Of course everybody laughed, and that was the beginning.

Tom Brassell:  You turned a 30 on that second round the last day, put it all together, and what a finish it was. You were playing a couple of groups, I believe ahead of Ben Hogan, right?

Arnold Palmer:  No, I was right in back of him. I was watching him in the water at 17, if you recall, and well, the tears weren’t in my eyes, I’ll tell you that. I saw him have the trouble he had there, and of course then I felt pretty sure that I was going to be able to win the tournament if I could make a couple pars on the last two holes.

Tom Brassell: Well the good news is Bob Drum was wrong, you shot 65 and won by 2, correct?

Arnold Palmer:   That’s right.

Tom Brassell:  Mr. Palmer, one more thing I wanted to ask you, I guess early in your career there was another friendship. You had that deep bond with your father, but also Mark McCormack. Talk about that and where that’s taken you through the years for both of you.

Arnold Palmer:  Well, Mark McCormack and I had played in college against each other. He went to William and Mary and I went to Wake Forest, and we had the opportunity to play against each other and to know each other. Three years after I turned pro, Mark came to me and said he’d like to represent me. We had some discussion about that and he had another company that he was putting together with golfers, and of course my idea of that was not the same as his. I said, well, if you want to represent me you have to get rid of all those other people and just come with me. Well actually what happened, he did that. Then he came back and he said okay, he says, I’ll make a deal and represent you on [inaudible 10:15]. I said fine, and he said I’ll draw up a contract. He was an attorney, as you obviously know, and the contract was to bring us together. I said, no, you don’t need to do that. I said, if you want to represent me, you just tell me what you want to do and I’ll tell you what I want you to do, and we’ll shake hands and that’ll be our contract. We did that. Unfortunately, it didn’t last very long. Only 50 years.

Tom Brassell:    I’m sure Mark and you came up with this. Where did the branding of the umbrella come from for the Arnold Palmer brand?

Arnold Palmer: That’s a good question, because when we were forming our companies and putting everything together, in the late ’59 and early ’60, we were searching for an emblem, something that we could use as our signature emblem. Everything we checked in Washington and everywhere was taken. A lot of people had offered us various emblems and such as golf clubs crossed or you know, anything you could think of. They all wanted pretty good money for that, and I’m a little frugal about things like that, so I never took any of the stuff. We were having a meeting in a hotel in Lincoln in Pennsylvania, and it was raining. A lady got out of her car and had an umbrella with multi colors on it. It immediately struck me as that might work. We checked that out, and as it turned out, it was not copyrighted and no one owned it.

I’ve owned it ever since. I suggested that we do the umbrella and do the colors, and the colors each represented a division of our company, whether it was clothing, golf clubs, and so on. We copyrighted it around the world, and I own it today around the world I’m very pleased because it has become symbolic of our business and the things that we represent.

Tom Brassell:  Thank goodness for a rainstorm, right?

Arnold Palmer:Right.

Tom Brassell:Mr. Palmer, we can’t thank you enough for your time today. We want to thank you again for what you’ve done for the game of golf. If it weren’t for you, Kenny and I wouldn’t be in the business. I’ve always said if God ever told me if I had one round left to play, it’d be with a man on the other end of this phone. I appreciate all you’ve done, and again happy Father’s Day to you and thank you very much.

Arnold Palmer:   Well thank you guys very much. I hope to see you soon.