I called him “Arnold,” in part because that’s what his secretary Doc Giffin called him, and I was with Doc the first few times we got together; also because I wasn’t old enough to call him “Arnie,” and “Mr. Palmer” seemed way too formal for a man whom I considered to be a friend.
Arnold Palmer and I were born 33 years and 1 day apart. He was one of the most famous men in the world before I took my first breath, and he was still one of the most beloved figures in sports when I met him. The fact that he befriended me, a young writer who could do absolutely nothing for him, was and is a mystery. But it also says a lot about why he remained so popular for so long.
Our first meeting could only be called such in the academic sense. It came during a rain delay at the Masters sometime in the early ’70s. I was a hefty prepubescent kid in an ill-fitting Munsingwear shirt. During a Georgia spring deluge, I ran headlong into the clubhouse, right past the Pinkerton guard, without a badge to my name, a prelude to a life of sliding in where I ...
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