Arnold Palmer

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Arnold Palmer

(Note: Arnold Palmer died one year ago today. Golfweek is taking a look at his career and impact this week.)

ATLANTA One year has passed since the world not just the sports world lost Arnold Palmer, the king of golf. In the 364 days since, we have missed his touch, his kindness, his humility, his playfulness, his compassion, and mostly, his overall bigger-than-life, thumbs-up presence.

Arnold Palmer had a special gift. He made others feel good. There’s no debate: For 87 years, this planet definitely had global warming. He was born in the Great Depression in the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania, and his name was Arnold Daniel Palmer.

The PGA Tour has continued to extend and celebrate the King’s legacy, not that it’s going anywhere anytime soon. Last September, days after his death, one of Palmer’s old Ryder Cup bags was placed on the first tee at the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine; in March, at Bay Hill in Orlando, where Palmer spent winters since the mid-1960s, more than 60 players took part in a 21 gun salute on the practice grounds to start the Arnold Palmer Invitational; at last month’s Boeing Invitational in Seattle, home to a PGA Tour Champions event, a 787-8 Dreamliner flew overhead at Snoqualmie Ridge, with Palmer’s signature, colorful umbrella emblazoned on the belly of the plane. As people peered into a blue sky, the scene left lumps in many throats.

Last week the Tour Championship was staged at East Lake Golf Club, where in 1963 Palmer served victoriously as the last playing captain in the Ryder Cup. There were mementos of Palmer’s time at the club. Inside a glass case on the first floor in the stately clubhouse, his persimmon woods and MacGregor MT irons with rusted lead tape on the heads and those trademark wrapped leather grips he’d put on himself were housed in his 1963 Ryder Cup bag. Palmer had defeated 26-year-old rookie George Will of Scotland in singles, 3 and 2, and finished 4-2 to help lead the U.S. to a resounding 23-9 romp. The reminders and trinkets his money clip, his locker plate, his captain’s trophy are nice, but they also make us stop and miss the man.

One year later, what is it that we miss most?

I think everybody needs a pick me up along the way, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said. Everyone needs that source of inspiration, and he was always one to fill that gap for a lot of people. Just being around him inherently gave you an added appreciation for all of us playing the small part that we play in this game.

One year ago, Monahan, then-Commissioner Tim Finchem and Ty Votaw were pulling out of the players’ lot at East Lake on Sunday evening after the finish, and they could not have been on a bigger high. The final round of the Tour Championship had been sensational, with Rory McIlroy charging hard down the stretch, shooting 64, then winning a thrilling playoff over Ryan Moore and Kevin Chappell. McIlroy had doubled up, too. His victory also delivered the FedEx Cup, a perfect 10th-anniversary celebration.

The three Tour officials had just left a FedEx hospitality after-party on site, where they’d spent time with McIlroy, and now were headed to the airport to get back to Florida headquarters after a long season. Finchem was scrolling through his phone. Oh, my God, he said. Fifteen seconds of profound silence followed that felt like forever.

Arnold passed away, he said somberly.

The three sat in the darkness outside the East Lake gates on Alston Drive.

I’ll never forget it, Monahan said, because he (Finchem) had been so good in making sure that I had gotten a lot of time with Arnold in the three years that preceded that. I’ll also never forget it because of how emotional he was, and how clear it was to me how much Arnold meant to him.

Arnold met a good deal to so many people. It’s sounds trite, but everybody, and we mean everybody, it seems, has a Palmer story. A sighting, an encounter, an exchange. Former Cleveland Plain Dealer golf writer George Sweda Jr. once talked Palmer into joining him at his high school reunion. On the memorabilia front, Palmer’s autograph isn’t worth much, only because he took the time to sign so many of them, all of them perfectly legible.































Both Arnold Palmer and his caddy throw themselves in to the act as Palmer's Eagle putt rolls close to the 13th cup but misses by inches in the final round of the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga., April 13, 1964. Palmer won an unprecedented fourth Masters title. Caddy is unidentified. (AP Photo)
Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, left to right, pose at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio on Sept. 7, 1962. (AP Photo)
Golfing greats Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus are shown on the course of Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., on Wednesday, April 4, 1973. Both are hoping for victory in the first of four major golf championships. Presently, the two are tied with four Masters victories each. (AP Photo)
President of the USGA John Clock presents the U.S. Open trophy to Arnold Palmer, left, at the Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver, Colorado on June 18, 1960. (AP Photo)
Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead in 1958
With a clenched fist, Arnold Palmer gives vent to his emotion at sinking a birdie putt on the 17th hole at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York on Friday, June 14, 1974 in second round of the 74th U.S. Open golf championship. Palmer went on to post an even par 70. With his opening round of 73 that puts him in a tie for lead. (AP Photo)
Arnold Palmer registered this moment of torture when he missed a putt on the 11th hole during the first round of the U.S. Open at Medinah Country Club, June 20, 1975. Arnie hunched his shoulders, dropped his putter and raised his face to the sky. He finished in two-under-par 69, two strokes behind the leaders. (AP Photo)

In the year that has passed, there are different settings and times that we long for Palmer’s presence. This week’s Hall of Fame induction in New York and Presidents Cup in New Jersey are two occasions we might have seen the man. Aussie Marc Leishman won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, and though five high-profile ambassadors had stepped in to fill the King’s shoes as collective host during the tournament week, Leishman stood on the 18th green awaiting the winner’s ceremony and could palpably feel the void.

It was massive, Leishman said. You see guys win his tournament before, and he’s always there to meet them. When I won and he wasn’t there, it was kind of emotional. You knew that he wasn’t going to be around anymore. It really hit home.

The year that has followed Palmer’s death has allowed for the telling of so many great stories about the man. Rob Johnson, the general chairman at the Tour Championship and a member at Augusta National, where Palmer, a four-time Masters champion, also was a member, remembers the laughter that always surrounded Palmer. Johnson was a relatively new member at Augusta when a server approached him to point out that a green-jacketed member a few tables over was dining without a tie.







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