Words similar to these were once written about Ben Hogan’s legs after his near-fatal crash in Texas. Arnold Palmer was a hero to everyone in the golf world. There have been tons of tributes, all richly deserved. Like many young lads, he is the man who got me interested in golf. I remember watching the Masters with my dad when Arnold rolled in a putt on 17 that propelled him to a win in 1958 or 1960. I can’t remember which, but does it really matter? I instantly became one of his army. I regaled in his victories and agonized in his defeats. I never actually met him in person, but there are two times that he touched my life. The first was when I was in college at the University of Miami in the late ’60s. I was fortunate to go and watch him play at Doral. Can’t remember how he played that day, but getting up close enough to watch him strike the ball was quite a feat. The army was always four or five deep. I went ahead two holes so I could get a spot directly facing where he would tee it up. As he waited for the group in front to clear, he looked me directly in the eye and winked. I gave him a nod like he was my best friend and I was there to cheer him on. Then like a flash he was gone. I’ve never forgotten the moment. My next encounter was when I started the United States Professional Hickory Golf Championship in 2010. I had the audacity to send Mr. Palmer an invitation to play in the event since it was a tribute to the history of our game, knowing his fondness for its heritage. I figured, what the heck, never expecting anything. A few days later an envelope arrived from his office. Inside was a personal letter from Arnold thanking me for the invitation but telling me that he would be in California and would be unable to play. He did offer to send some memorabilia to help raise funds for the charity the tournament was supporting. This is the man he was and why he was so beloved. If more high-profile people were like him, the world would be a better place.
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