He Had His Own Army

arnie

25 September 2016 (Pasadena, CA) 95 professional victories, 62 PGA wins, 1 Amateur Major, 7 major victories (4 Masters, 2 Open Championships and 1 US Open), a golf tournament named in his honor, a drink named after him, and his own Army. And what a great Army it was. Loyal fans. Knowledgeable. Courteous. Nothing like the buffoons who blather baba-booie or ham and eggs after a tee shot these days. And nothing like the robotic “patrons” who make their annual pilgrimages to Augusta. These were down-home fans. Blue-collar, working-class folk who had a blue-collar hero from steel country no less. Arnold Palmer of Latrobe, PA. Born Sept 10, 1929, died Sept. 25, 2016. 87 wonderful years old. By far, my dad’s favorite golfer. My dad even dressed like him (on purpose). Arnie made golfing and being a golfer cool. He was a well-dressed swashbuckler who swung from the heels. Ladies swooned, galleries buzzed. If Jack was the Beatles, Arnie was the Stones. A gentleman with a bit of an edge. 1/3 of the competitive trinity that was the Big 3: Arnie, Jack and Gary. A plaque at Rancho Park Golf Course, Los Angeles memorializes the second round 12 he made on the par 5 18th in 1961. A 5 would have given him 69. He shot 76 slicing 2 3-woods into the driving range and then hooking 2 more 3-woods onto the street adjacent to 18. No laying up that day. He hit his 4th dropped ball onto the green with , get this, a 3-wood ala Caddie Shack…or rather, ala Arnie. I recall the first time I saw him live at Rancho Park playing in the Los Angeles Open. It was 1966. The crowd that gathered around the practice range was enormous, all trying to get a glimpse of the King. My dad explained to me, “That’s Arnie’s Army.” I was sold. I wanted in. Not only into the Army but into the game. If Arnie was my dad’s favorite, he would be mine. At 6 years old no less. I recall cursing at the TV when Jack would get the best of him (but not without a fight). And don’t get me started on Gary Player! He will always be in my pantheon of all-time favorite athletes. Jerry West, Sandy Koufax, Mohammad Ali, Dick Butkus, Lee Trevino and Arnold Palmer. Golf’s greatest ambassador gone. Long live the King and thanks for the memories.

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