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Memory of an Icon // A higher power

By |  September 25, 2016 0 Comments

My father’s favorite golfer of all time was Arnold Palmer. Part of the connection for my dad was that he was born the same year as Mr. Palmer and watched faithfully how the great player changed the game of golf. My father always admired how Mr. Palmer interacted with the gallery and how he was truly a legend to which most golfers could relate. A testament to Mr. Palmer’s impact on all golfers is “Arnie’s Army,” in which I count myself a proud member.

As my career in the golf industry evolved, I gained increasing respect for the “King.” I admired him for his longevity in golf, his business ventures, and for what he’s done for our game. I’ve had the privilege of meeting a number of the greatest golfers in the world, but nothing compares to the day I met Arnold Palmer.

It happened at Winged Foot Golf Club at the 2006 U.S. Open. I was there learning as much as I could as we prepared Torrey Pines for the 2008 Open. I was in the clubhouse luncheon buffet line. I looked up and saw that Mr. Palmer was progressing through the line with me. I introduced myself, and he graciously asked me where I was from. I explained that I was there because I was preparing for the 2008 Open. He commented that he was hearing a lot of bad things, about not only Torrey Pines, but also about the political situation in San Diego.

As we loaded our plates, I explained to one of the greatest golfers of all time what we were doing to correct the issues related to Torrey Pines hosting the Open. Luckily, the line was moving slowly, so I had time to detail some of the things we were getting done related to agronomics, course conditioning and projects. I even touched upon the support I was getting from San Diego’s new mayor, Jerry Sanders, who was helping pull everything together by getting me the resources I needed.

[ MORE MEMORIES OF AN ICON: Life-long impressions of Arnold Palmer | Arnie and me ]

When we reached the end of the buffet line and started to go our respective tables (I wasn’t invited to join the King at his table) I was thinking two things: I wish my father were here; and I wish this moment wouldn’t end.

It’s possible that the King said the last thing between the two of us. He turned to me, looked me in the eye and said, “You better get Torrey Pines ready for the Open.” I may have mumbled something along the lines of “Yes sir, Mr. Palmer, and nice to meet you,” but I can’t honestly remember.

I do remember going over to my table, trying to eat my lunch, and thinking about the words “You better get Torrey Pines ready for the Open.” Everyone who knows what we had to accomplish to get Torrey Pines ready to peak in that one week in June of 2008 also knows that we were under a lot of pressure, with a relatively short timeline and a golf course that needed a ton of attention to detail. Not that we needed more motivation to get Torrey Pines ready, but to hear the King say those words personally motivated me as much as anything. As I look back I know that we succeeded, and I was able to be a part of one of the greatest Opens in recent memory, with Tiger beating Rocco in a Monday playoff.

Most people don’t realize it, but Arnold Palmer’s words bounced around in my head every time we faced an obstacle or challenge at Torrey. It was like a higher power had spoken to me.

The last thing I wanted to do was to let down the two greatest influencers in my life and career, my father and the King.

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