All Hail the King: Arnie at 80

Arnold Palmer, Masters, 1965
James Drake/SI
Palmer at the 1965 Masters.

Bob Goalby 1968 Masters champion
I wrote Arnold a letter the other day. Never wrote him one in my life. I just told him that I was honored to have played in the same era as he did. I said, "All of us would have liked to have been like you." That may not have been adequate, but I wanted him to know how we feel.

Peter Jacobsen Seven-time PGA Tour winner
I met him while playing a practice round at the Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. I don't recall the year. I cut across a hole and looked back, and I saw that it was Arnold Palmer. I was so embarrassed. He walked up on the next tee, stuck his hand out and said, "Hey, do you mind if we join you?" When it was clear that I had cut in front of him! My heart was pounding out of my chest, but he treated me as an equal. That's the kind of guy he is, and that's the kind of image he projects — one of inclusion, not exclusion.

Doc Giffin Palmer's business manager and right-hand man
Probably the most memorable moment for me was the time President Eisenhower surprised him on his birthday in 1966. Winnie set it up, and I was one of the few in on it. She sent Arnie's plane to Gettysburg on a Saturday morning to pick up the former President. Eisenhower just comes up the walk and knocks on the door. Winnie and Arnie answer the door, and there's Ike standing there with a little bag in his hands. And Ike says, "Do you happen to have a little room for an old man to spend the night?"

David B. Fay USGA executive director
The first time I saw him was at the 1967 U.S. Open, a practice round. He comes walking up the hill on the fifth hole, wearing a light blue shirt, and I couldn't believe the size of his forearms. It was a lasting image, like the first time you walk into a big league ballpark and you can't believe how green it is.

Renton Laidlaw Longtime golf announcer
I remember when Palmer won the 1975 Spanish Open at La Manga. I went to interview him in his bungalow. He was on the phone to his wife, and he was like a child: "I won again!" I was just so impressed. He was that kind of competitor. You'd have thought he'd won the Open.

Louise Suggs LPGA founder and Hall of Famer
I knew Arnold and Winnie before they were married, back when they used to go into a clubhouse and order food at a table for two. Arnold always called me "Patty." Charlie Mechem [the former LPGA commissioner] was showing him around one day, and Arnold came over to me and said, "Patty, how are you?" And I said, "Arnold, if you keep callin' me Patty, I'm going to start callin' you Jack."

Bob Goalby
I saw him sign autographs in hundred-degree heat after he'd shot 74 or 75. He'd stand there for an hour by the ropes. I wouldn't stand there for 10 minutes; I'd be churning inside. But he'd just stand there. I think he loved the adulation.

Vinny Giles Winner of both the U.S. and British Amateurs
I played with him twice in the Masters, as an amateur. Back then they let the galleries get a lot closer to the action, and there would be occasions where you had to wait. I remember my third shot to No. 8 — they had to move 10,000 people out of the way so I could hit an 80-yard pitch. [Laughs.] They certainly weren't there to watch me.

Dow Finsterwald
Arnold lost a Monday playoff in Wilmington in 1958, so we didn't get to Augusta until Monday night. On Tuesday I put together a game with Ben Hogan and Jack Burke. It wasn't one of Arnold's better days, and afterward, Hogan said something like, "How did this guy get in the tournament with that swing?" Gosh darn, Arnold had won seven tournaments in two years, so I think Hogan must have just been pulling Arnold's chain a little bit. But it worked out well for Arnold that week. [Palmer won the first of his four Masters titles. Hogan finished seven strokes back in a tie for 14th.]

Gary Player Longtime Palmer rival
Arnold fell out of bed with charisma. He didn't need to speak. He just had it.

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