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Palmer follows Nicklaus' lead and says goodbye

August 02, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

First Jack Nicklaus, now Arnold Palmer. In dramatically different ways, golf's two most revered American names are putting their bags in storage.

Two weeks ago, Nicklaus made his farewell at St. Andrew's in the British Open amid scores of cheering fans and a bevy of stories chronicling his career.

To much less fanfare at the United States Senior Open last Friday in Kettering, Ohio, Palmer announced he was bringing an end to his tournament competition, which has lasted 25 years on the Senior Tour after a career on the regular tour that put golf on the American map.

The United States had golfing greats such as Gene Sarazen, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, but none had the charismatic flair about them that Palmer brought with him as he toured the U.S. and abroad.

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A young man growing up on a farm in Latrobe, Pa., Palmer emerged on the professional scene and won his first PGA event when he took the Canadian Open in 1955.

I remember first seeing Palmer in person when I was a youngster about to enter my teen years in 1963 - the year Palmer won the Cleveland Open Invitational.

Between then and 1988, when he won his last PGA tournament (the Crestar Classic), I had the opportunity to see Palmer play several times in Cleveland at the famed Canterbury Golf Club, the last time in 1996 when Canterbury hosted the U.S. Senior Open.

I had the opportunity, going back to the early 1970s, to meet Palmer as a working member of the press corps. He was as cordial in person as he was on television.

Even in '96, after the first round of the Senior Open, he remembered me by first name as we convened at the media room.

He won his first major in 1958 when he captured the Masters, but more importantly for golf, it was his energy and flamboyance that drove him to the top of the golf world and its fans, as the famous Arnie's Army tag emerged.

He was always in a battle with Nicklaus, at times winning and at times losing. Through the 1960s, those battles provided memorable moments for the game.

As the No. 1 golf ambassador, Palmer ventured into course design and construction and has maintained his high profile through that work and the many hours he spends with charities.

Whether you are a golf junkie or not, we have been fortunate over the years to have an individual like Arnold Palmer to call one of our idols. Even if you couldn't play like him, there certainly was nothing wrong being like him.




Tim Koelble is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at koelble@herald-mail.com

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