Authors: Arnold Palmer
More praise for
A Golfer’s Life
A Golfer’s Life
—the writing, which is simple and excellent, is by James Dodson, a contributing editor at
magazine—is not sanitized and predictable. There’s a refreshing level of candor, and it yields interesting and unexpected stories about Palmer’s mistakes, disappointments, and personal failings.… There won’t
another Arnold Palmer. [His] rugged charm could be produced only in a certain time and place, and that’s where this enjoyable book, every bit as unpretentious as its author, is rooted.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Palmer is a wonderful raconteur, and some of the best stories concern the presidents he befriended, from Eisenhower to Clinton.… Palmer offers realistic accounts of his life and times. It is well worth reading.”
—New York Post
“Vintage Palmer … An engaging book with great appeal … Straight from the heart … You’re soon rooting for him to win his first tournament, and then the next one.… As Palmer says in the opening pages, ‘Remembering one’s life is to live twice.’ And it’s fun for us to tag along with Arnie and join the army of readers reliving some of his legendary tournament victories.… He also shares his feelings about a tough, but loving, father who taught him so much about golf and life. And he even elaborates on the now-famous handshake agreement with sports marketing guru Mark McCormack.”
“Palmer was the greatest golfer of the 1960s. For his many fans, this book is a must.”
—Toronto Globe & Mail
“Superb reading … Fabulous … [Palmer is] refreshingly candid about his relationship with Nicklaus, his ongoing problems with golf’s rule makers, and his own occasional overreaching on investments.”
—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
A Ballantine Book
Published by The Random House Publishing Group
Copyright © 1999 by Arnold Palmer Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
Ballantine and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 99-91814
First Trade Paperback Edition: March 2000
To my wife, Winnie, and my daughters, Peggy and Amy
erhaps the best way to put together your autobiography would be to isolate yourself from all distractions for a few months and write away. In my case, that simply was not possible. I had too much going on … then, and now, ahead of me. Quite obviously, I needed some help in getting all of my words down on paper in proper, thorough, and interesting fashion and then in being certain that what I had roughed out in my dictation was complete and accurate.
Certainly, the most important assistance would have to come from the writer who would collaborate with me in creating the finished manuscript. Through the years I have known most of the finest golf writers in the world, but, at the urging of my wife, Winnie, we wound up entrusting this job to a talented man we had just met. Winnie had read his book
, a wonderful account of a father and son’s long-planned and final golfing trip to the British Isles. Winnie thought that the son, author Jim Dodson, would be the perfect person to work with me on this project. I agreed. Jim has been wonderful, and I think, or at least hope, that this book bears out the wisdom of this decision. Considering that Jim is a three-time winner of the Golf Writers Association of America Award, a longtime contributing editor to
magazine, and the Golf Editor of
magazine, and that
was picked as the top golf book of 1996, the choice was obvious.
Jim has shaped and organized my words and thoughts into a flowing account of the wonderful life I’ve had the good fortune to live. I am most grateful to him for his dedication, understanding, and reliance on others when appropriate, and his diligence in completing the manuscript in a timely fashion.
Both Jim and I relied heavily on my family and close friends and associates in getting everything right. You can never depend totally on your memory to come up with all the facts and stories of a lifetime of nearly seventy years and get them just right every time. That’s where Winnie, Doc Giffin, and Bev Norwood, in particular, came in. Winnie and Doc, who both have been encouraging me to undertake this autobiographical effort for many years, but only under the right circumstances, made many suggestions as I began to present my thoughts to Jim Dodson and pored over the manuscript as it took shape in his hands. Nobody, of course, knows more about me and the last forty-five years than Winnie, so her input and total interest in achieving just the right story of this golfer’s life was invaluable.
To a lesser extent and from a slightly shorter period of acquaintanceship, Doc Giffin, my personal assistant and confidant for the last thirty-three years, contributed significantly to bringing this story to life. I’m certain—and I think Jim Dodson will agree—that we could not have done as well without him. A journalist by profession, Doc might have been the “with” on the cover of this book himself. Realizing that he could not relinquish his other duties to give full attention to the project, Doc instead devoted himself to a careful, superb editing of the manuscript, suggesting additions, corrections, and deletions when appropriate. Most of the time they were.
We had the benefit of another journalist, too, in Bev Norwood, who was involved with this book as a literary executive at the International Management Group and is also a good friend, knowledgeable about golf and my career. He also read the first draft of the manuscript meticulously and made a number of valuable suggestions that prevented inadvertent mistakes and enhanced the finished product.
My siblings—brother Jerry and sisters Lois Jean and Sandy—were particularly helpful in reconstructing the early years in Latrobe and Youngstown. So were my daughters, Peggy and Amy, in bringing back family memories. When we turned to the significant business side of my life, we counted heavily on the input of Mark McCormack and Alastair Johnston as well as that of Ed Seay, my frequent traveling companion, when we got into the exciting (to me) subject of golf course architecture and design, which became more and more important to me as the years went by.
Since this is the last of my books, I have been able to draw from the work and words put down by previous writers I’ve collaborated with—Tom Hauser, William Barry Furlong, Ernie Havemann, Norman Cousins, and Bob Drum—so their fine efforts have been renewed, in a way, in these pages.
Finally, I must offer sincere thanks to Judith Curr, Senior Vice President and Publisher at Ballantine Books, who originally approached me with the idea of finally writing my autobiography. Perhaps the timing was right, but so were Judith’s guiding editorial insights. She was ably assisted in the production of the manuscript by Gary Brozek, Editor at Ballantine Books, and the ever-diligent Managing Editorial and Production departments there.
Thank you all, from the bottom of this golfer’s heart.
lear September evenings are beautiful in the little town of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, where I grew up and still live. A few days after my sixty-eighth birthday, on just such an evening, my wife Winnie and I left home and drove down the hill to the township road that hasn’t changed much in the past half-century, crossed over, and started up the winding driveway of Latrobe Country Club.
The driveway crosses a small brook and two fairways, the steep downhill first and the long uphill 18th. We paused to allow a couple of late finishers—two boys carrying their own bags—to hit their final approach shots on 18. Winnie reached over and took my hand and commented that I seemed awfully quiet—and was driving awfully slowly—for a man who had a big speech to make in a few minutes.
Under normal circumstances I enjoy giving speeches, and I seldom use a prepared text, because years ago I discovered that speaking to people straight from the heart about a subject you love may be a bit more risky, but the rewards are almost always greater in the end. That’s just my style, I
guess—the way I prefer to play golf and the way I prefer to speak to people.
This crowd was different, however. The occasion was my fiftieth high school reunion, and at that moment almost two hundred people from Latrobe High’s Class of 1947 were gathered in the upstairs dining room or sipping cocktails on the adjacent lawn, waiting for their unofficial host to arrive and get the festivities under way.
I hadn’t seen many of these folks in over half a century—a thought that probably astounded them as much as it did me. How could that time have gone by so rapidly? Most of those in attendance, I knew, now lived other places and had come back to Latrobe from great distances. Others there were some of my closest friends on earth. But all of them had known me long before I became a famous public figure named Arnold Palmer. To them, I was simply “Arnie” Palmer, the skinny, golf-crazy son of Deke and Doris Palmer, the boy who would grow up and do well enough to buy the club where once upon a time he was permitted on the course only before the members arrived in the morning or after they had gone home in the evening.
I peered through the windshield and watched as one of the boys made a strong swing, and I remember commenting to Winnie, as his ball flew away in the twilight toward an unseen flag up the hill, “He may like that better than he knows.” I knew what that boy was feeling, because I’d hit that final shot—perhaps from that very spot—thousands of times myself over the past fifty or sixty years. And every time, it filled me with a mixture of hope and wonder.
The boys picked up their bags and moved on. Wrapped in the spell of the game, they probably didn’t have a clue or a care in the world who was watching them, and that’s exactly as it should be, a tribute to this marvelous game we play.
There is something magical about finishing a golf round in the dusk.
Driving on, I admitted to Winnie that I was a bit worried about what I was going to say to the folks on the hill, and she knew why without my having to say anything more. It wasn’t being sixty-eight that was chewing away at me or even the slight bittersweet feeling I often experience with September’s arrival—brought on by the knowledge that another golf season is slowly winding down. The truth was, several things had happened to us in the preceding year that made this homecoming all the more poignant, and therefore somewhat difficult for me.