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The loss of a legend

By |  October 24, 2016 0 Comments
Seth Jones

Seth Jones

Four of our regular contributors, Karl Danneberger, Ph.D., Joel Jackson, CGCS-Ret., Steve Wright, CGCS, and Mark Woodward, CGCS, share stories of their experiences with the King. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy each tale, stories that wind their way from Spring Break ’74 to a 2006 lunch line, as well as two eerily similar stories. (Who would have guessed that the two finalists for the Isleworth job 20-plus years ago both are columnists for the magazine today?)

Likewise, it’s an honor to feature Mr. Palmer on the cover. As an extra bonus for this Kansan, we have President Dwight D. Eisenhower alongside the King, which ties in our “Golfer-in-Chief” story. Once-in-a-lifetime.

I met Mr. Palmer only once, and have mentioned it here before. It was March 2013, and I was invited to meet Mr. Palmer in his office at Bay Hill during the week of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The meeting was set up the week before when I interviewed Mr. Palmer over the phone for a Golfdom story. My friend Adam Slick, who at the time worked for Jacobsen, joined me. We found Mr. Palmer’s office and walked in about 30 minutes early, just to be safe.

Palmer’s secretary greeted us and told us to grab a seat. Adam and I nervously fidgeted while we waited. I’ve interviewed plenty of celebrities and professional golfers over the years and have become a little numb to it all, but I recognized this was a big one.

We sat there for 10 minutes, then 15. Palmer’s secretary apologized once, then twice. I repeated to her that we were fine, and joked that we could sit there until Sunday if needed in order to meet The King. Finally, she had had enough — the meeting ahead of us was 20 minutes past schedule, and she was going to interrupt it, despite my pleas not to.

She guided us in. Adam tells me, in hindsight, that when he saw the look on my face as I walked into Palmer’s office, he knew there was trouble afoot. The meeting we were interrupting was with the Associated Press and its golf writer, Doug Ferguson, who was then the president of the Golf Writers Association of America.

Golfdom crashing the AP’s interview wasn’t ideal. Also not ideal, Mr. Palmer had just taken out his hearing aid and was performing some maintenance on it when we entered. So after I introduced myself and Adam, I was then instructed by his secretary that I’d need to SPEAK MUCH LOUDER IF YOU WANT ARNOLD TO HEAR YOU.

So now not only am I crashing Ferguson’s interview, I’m also shouting at the King.

Mr. Palmer was friendly, but the meeting was short and as awkward as it sounds. I got an interview, but it was disjointed. I was distraught afterward. Adam tried to convince me it wasn’t “that bad.” I wasn’t convinced.

Later that day I saw Ferguson — who has since become a friend — and apologized for interrupting his meeting. He told me it was just fine, and that it was perhaps helpful, as he was able to observe Palmer’s interaction with me.
A few days later, Ferguson’s syndicated AP story started running around the world. In that story, he recounted my meeting, using phrases like “powerful handshake” and “broadening smile.” He politely left out the part about me shouting and (probably) sweating profusely. Strangely, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kate Upton was part of the same Arnold Palmer story.

I have no idea how it all worked out in the end, but it did.

He really was The King.

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