“The best friend golf ever had”: Tom Watson remembers golf legend Arnold Palmer
FOX 4 NEWSROOM – September 26, 2016
“Golf legend Arnold Palmer died on Sunday in Pittsburgh at the age of 87, and local golf hero Tom Watson, who knew him well, shares some of his favorite memories of the man he says was his idol and friend.
“It’s a sad day for the world of golf,” Watson said. “Everywhere around the globe is talking about Arnold Palmer.”
Golf Digest reported Palmer’s death shortly before 7:30 p.m., on Sunday night.
Watson said he heard of Palmer’s passing when their mutual doctor friend called him crying.
Palmer was an American professional golfer, who is generally regarded as “golf’s greatest ambassador.” He won several events on both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.
“Arnold had a passion, and a humility, and a patience for those around him,” Watson said. ” He signed every autograph ever asked of him.”
Palmer won the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998 and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
Arnold Palmer, Golf’s Unquestioned King, Dies At Age 87
Golf Digest – By Tom Callahan – September 25, 2016
“In 2013, Tom Watson complained to Golf Digest about a cover photo posing 84-year-old Palmer with supermodel Kate Upton in a parody of Grant Wood’s American Gothic. Mimicking the somber farmer, Arnold is holding a bunker rake instead of a pitchfork. “He looks doddering,” Watson said. “If they had only shot him sneaking a peek out of the corner of his eye at Kate—eyes twinkling—that would have been all right. That would have been Arnie.”
One story, of many stories, that tells of Arnold Palmer
Golf Channel – By Joe Posnanski – September 25, 2016
“There was the time that Tom Watson met Palmer, back in 1965. Watson idolized Palmer. He would have his greatest duels with Nicklaus, and he admired Nicklaus, revered him, grew to love him, but there was something different about Palmer. Arnie was Watson’s hero. Arnie was the very essence of what a golf hero could be. When Watson first shook the King’s hand before their first exhibition together, he could feel the power – Arnie was famous for crushing Coors beer cans with one hand back before those cans were made of aluminum. Palmer himself was made of steel.
Watson stepped to the first tee of that exhibition match and with all the strength and hope he had in his 15-year-old body he unleashed his first drive in the hopes of impressing the King. “I really caught it,” Watson would say many years later. He thinks the ball sailed and rolled out to almost 300 yards. Watson would never forget the way Palmer’s eyes widened just a little, as if to say: “Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be?”
And then a small smile sprung on Palmer’s face, and he walked up to the tee himself. He put out the cigarette he had been smoking. And without even a warm-up swing, he walloped his drive 20 yards past Watson.
“That was Arnie,” Watson would say. “That was my hero.”
But this story tells only of the young Palmer. And his perseverance was yet another part of his story. There is the older Arnie, who showed up in Kansas City again 40 years after that first exhibition. He came this time Watson’s charity event. It was an amazing day – there were the five legends who had dominated golf for a quarter century, Palmer and Nicklaus, Watson and Gary Player and Lee Trevino. But the topic was Tiger Woods and how the younger golfers seemed defeated by his greatness.
“Do you wish you were 30 years younger so you could take on this Tiger Woods kid?” Watson asked Palmer. And though Palmer was well into his 70s, though it had been years since he had been competitive, you could see the fire flicker on his face, the same fire that pushed him to charge back and win seven majors and all those tournaments.
“You bet your ass I do,” Palmer said.
No, there is no one story that can do what we need it to do, no one story that can bring Arnold Palmer back to life even for a moment. He died on Sunday at age 87, and for the last 60 or so years he was golf. Nicklaus was greater. Tiger, too. Watson and Player won more major championships. But all of them would tell you that Arnold was the King. He loved the game. He loved competing. He loved winning. He loved people. More than anything, he loved being Arnold Palmer. It was the greatest life he could imagine living.”