Shaili Chopra, Award winning journalist

When I Met Arnold Palmer At Latrobe & Why I Miss Him At The Masters

It’s during The Masters that one remembers the role and legacy some of the sport’s best bring. This year the traditional trio of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and …

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Arnold Palmer

It’s during The Masters that one remembers the role and legacy some of the sport’s best bring. This year the traditional trio of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus has one legend less.

It’s just also the time when I am thinking more than before of my time spent – possibly as the only Indian journalist ever – with Palmer. At his home, in his barn, along through his golf course and golden retriever and then at his Club House.

This year the traditional trio of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus had one legend less.

As if being a golf legend wasn’t enough, he went on to become a golf entrepreneur who took his name and game to masses. From an iced-tea lemonade to simply retailing golf to Americans, Arnold Palmer is a big link for golf and business. I was fortunate to get an appointment with him to spend nearly half a day at his summer home Latrobe. It’s a quaint drive up, almost a route you’d miss. It’s not ostentatiously marked and bears no signs except a board that says ‘Private Drive.’ Once up the hill, you turn into an estate that has a few bungalows, each separated from the other by thick foliage. With every few yards closer, my excitement was palpable until I came face to face with the multi-coloured umbrella logo on a white door on what was a rather modest thatch roof office.

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When you go to meet Palmer, you are warmly greeted by his golden retriever Mulligan. A mulligan as many of you would know is a ‘recovery shot’ in golf parlance. The fella is used to his master being interviewed so often and in a doggone way takes me through the office down to his assistant and then to his owner. Palmer had just come back after hitting a few shots on the course accompanied by his daughter on the golf cart.

TAKING GOLF GLOBAL

In his 80s, he was busy as a youngster. Talking to experts and colleagues and even other golfers, Arnold Palmer had been having a busy morning. His only mission – improve the game, keep it global, tweak it if necessary and transform the sport’s ability to be interest more. Arnold Palmer by far is considered the most international of all golf ambassadors having taken the sport first to American televisions and then across the Atlantic to Europe – in a public-friendly avatar. He is considered one who made it popular around the world by encouraging more galleries, more tv style coverage and such.

HUMBLE AND GREAT

I thought when he comes out, he’d probably be governed by a stop watch, have an air of achiever’s arrogance and positively be followed by a team of busy bees. When Palmer put his hand forward to say hello, my mind and eyes were still searching for all the others I expected. But none came. A warm, friendly and endearing Palmer greeted me and started by asking if my long journey was comfortable and if I had seen around his entire estate. With over a hundred fifty trophies, a room full of golf clubs, thousands of mementos and countless golf balls and memorabilia, Palmer’s presence is everywhere. But his father figure like stature and his popularity, reflecting through the souvenirs all around don’t one bit reflect the real man Palmer is – gentle, humble, interested and attentive. We sat for the interview, clearly he had done many of these.

HIS STORY

This 84-year old achiever is a legend but not a speck of self-importance can be spotted in his aura. Despite the many millions of dollars he accumulated, he spent carefully. An interesting story is that of how he picked his logo. “When I heard what it would cost to buy an emblem whether it was a golf club or a golf hat or whatever symbol that might be. So I worked really hard to explore and select an emblem on my own. And so I am came across the umbrella and realized it was not taken by all these entrepreneurs who were in the business of selling brands and logos. And we selected that.” Where he could he was thrifty and where his indulgence added to his business, he went all out. Palmer’s always loved to fly and his big indulgence has been his superfast private jet, a Citation which apparently is the fastest non-military passenger jet plane. “I realized earlier on how much it could mean to me in my businesses and otherwise. Without aviation I would have never been able to do what I have done in golf.” He is discerning and meticulous. Until today he answers every single fan letter by sending them a reply in the mailbox.

He values his time, his money, and other people but without the arrogance that comes with super-success. As one of the three living legends of golf, my experience with Palmer was less about his golf but more about human values.

This is an edited and updated version of my article that I earlier wrote for DNA

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