Alan Hedley met Arnold Palmer and pays tribute to the King of golf who died in September
There was a sense of inevitably about America’s Ryder Cup triumph at Hazeltine.
Coming less than a week after the death of Arnold Palmer, the US won back the Ryder Cup which has eluded them for much of the decade…and they won it in style. Mr Palmer would have approved.
The King would have loved the way the US played. He would have approved even more of the spirit in which the American and European players conducted themselves – apart for the occasional bout of over-exuberant celebration – though he too expressed himself passionately on the golf course.
Mr Palmer, who won 22 of his 33 matches in the biennial competition between the United States and Great Britain & Ireland as it was then, also served as captain in 1975.
He made golf popular with the masses and his legion of fans – Arnie’s Army – weren’t always a model of decorum. Jack Nicklaus came in for a fair amount of abuse when he challenged the King for his crown.
But Mr Palmer was simply loved by everyone. He wasn’t perfect – he famously had a bit of a temper – but he did have time for everyone.
I was lucky enough to meet him at The Masters in 2000. It was my first trip to Augusta and I was understandably nervous and anxious not to drop any clangers.
It was at a function for some of the European and British media and I was introduced to Mr Palmer for, I supposed, a bit of an audience. It wasn’t like that at all.
He was charming, funny and even a bit risqué with one of the waitresses and it was probably one of the best half hours I’ve spent in golf. I met him again a couple of times at The Open in company with other journalists again, and what struck me was how much time he was willing to give us and how he would answer any and every question and look you straight in the eye as he did it.
A truly great man and, like European legend Seve Ballesteros, he leaves a void that cannot be filled.
Meeting Mr Palmer
European Tour player and Palmer Cup player Chris Paisley:
“I was lucky to meet Mr Palmer at the Palmer Cup in 2009 at Cherry Hills, where he won the US Open in 1960. We’d heard a couple of days before that he would be visiting, and we assumed we would get to shake his hand. What we got was an unforgettable experience – a chance to sit and chat to Mr Palmer as a team for more than an hour. We asked so many questions, and to hear from a legend of the game, who didn’t have to spend time with us but chose to do so, was remarkable.
He talked about flying himself to events so he could make it home on Sunday nights to see his family, and the one piece of advice he gave, which I keep to, is to make sure people can read any autographs you do. He was a proper gentleman, one the greatest in our sport, but also open and genuine when you met him. It’s remarkable that he maintained that throughout his career and explains why so many found him truly inspiring.”