/Arnold Palmer and ‘Golf’

Arnold Palmer and ‘Golf’

There has never been a more charismatic, captivating figure in sports. I was a rank-and-file member of Arnie’s Army. Let’s just say that I still swing the club way too hard due to Arnie. It was either 1979 or 1980. In my 20s, I covered Mississippi State and golf for The Clarion-Ledger. However, the Orlando Sentinel offered me a job where Larry Guest, a Brookhaven native was the sports editor/sport columnist. Larry offered me the job, but wanted me to fly to Orlando to play golf and visit the newspaper. He was probably trying to make 20 dollars off of me, which he did. Larry was a member at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge, and that’s where he went to play one morning. We went to the grill for breakfast, but first Arnold Palmer sat alone, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. Larry replied, “Hey Arnie!” “Nice column,” Arnie replied. “Join me?” We did. Understanding that my profession has allowed I to meet many sports stars, such as Mantle, Muhammad Ali and Jack Nicklaus. These were usually in interviews. This was something else. This was Arnie, and it was breakfast at his club. He sat there, tanned, smiling, with his big, strong forearms, and that unmistakeable, deep, smooth voice. Larry explained why I was there. Arnie suggested that I accept the job. Larry and he talked about the club’s problems. Arnie stated that he wasn’t performing well at the time. He was at the bottom of his career. He didn’t give up. He actually planned to do that every day. It was a pleasant breakfast, and I didn’t choke on the bacon and eggs. After we had finished our breakfast, Larry and I went to the first tee. As we were practicing swings and talking about Palmer, a golf cart appeared around the corner. It was Arnie. Arnie stopped and smiled. I was standing on the Bay Hill first tee, and Arnold Palmer was watching from 15 feet away. At that moment, I was in dire need of an Arnold Palmer with vodka. “Let ‘er rip,” Arnie said. I put it on. I stood behind the ball, and gazed down the fairway. I likely said a silent prayer to make contact. I took a deep inhale. I’m sure I took a big swing. Solid contact was made. I would love for you to know that I made a good draw down the fairway’s middle. I didn’t. It was a long shot, but I blocked it. Pros will tell you that blocked shots are often caused by nerves or pressure. It’s easy to get caught up in a rush. Your body is in a rush. The clubface is always open. The ball is now to the right. This one was right of Spiro. T. Agnew. That’s what I did. I looked at Palmer, who smiled back and shrugged his shoulders. He said, “Golf.” He drove off. Golf. Larry Guest, a native of Mississippi, writes about Arnold Palmer as well as other sports stars in Sports Icons ‘R funny. Mississippi Today’s sports columnist is Rick Cleveland. Check out his columns as well as his Sports Daily blog. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to the Spring Member Drive today. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. To ensure that our work is aligned with the priorities and needs of all Mississippians, we are listening to you. Click the button below to let us know what you think.