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PGA Tour pros share memories of meeting Arnold Palmer for first time

PGA Tour pros share memories of meeting Arnold Palmer for first time

Arnold Palmer jokes with Peter Jacobsen after autographing the back of his commemorative Pirates jersey as Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster and former pitcher Steve Blass looks on before the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs game Sept. 8.

“I made my PGA Tour debut in 1976 at Pebble Beach Golf Links in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. I managed to shoot 70 at Del Monte Golf Course and that was good enough to make it. So, I hustle over to Monterey Peninsula Golf Club, which was part of the course rotation at the time, and slip on the course teeing off on the back nine as the sun is setting in the Pacific. I played Nos. 10-12 and then cut over to the 16th hole. Suddenly, somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 people round the corner from the 15thgreen to the 16th tee traipsing after none other than Arnold Palmer. He was larger than life to me. That’s when it hit me that I had committed a rookie mistake and jumped in front of him during his practice round.

He hitched his pants, cocked his head as only he could and made a beeline for me. In that moment, my 22-year-old mind raced and I wondered if he would say something like, “Hey, rookie, get out of the way!” Heroes, they say, generally disappoint. But not Arnold. He stuck out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Arnold Palmer. Can I join you?”

He talked to me the entire time as we played those final three holes and gave me a sleeve of a new golf ball he was promoting. He told me to let him know what I thought of the ball, which meant only one thing to me: I had an excuse to speak to one of my boyhood heroes again. When we finished, Arnold said, “Really a pleasure to meet you. Thanks for letting me play with you.”

I remained on the putting green at the 18th hole and I turned to my caddie and said: “Now that was magic right there.”


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