Iced Tea and Lemonade, and the King of Golf

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Golf is a good walk, spoiled. – Mark Twain

Submitted: September 26, 2016

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Submitted: September 26, 2016

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Elvis Presley was the King of Rock and Roll.  Michael Jackson was the King of Pop.  Yesterday, we lost the King of Golf.  Arnold Palmer died at the age of 87.

I could write a tribute and mention all of Mr. Palmer’s accomplishments.  Every golfer knows he won 62 PGA tournaments, and 7 majors.  We all know the stories about his epic battles with men like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.  Everyone has heard of Arnie’s Army.

He was a visionary in the world of sports.  He was the first professional golfer to hire an agent.  In the 1950s, when TV was still in its infancy, he was a passionate advocate for televised golf. 

When he got older, like everyone else, his game was not good enough to keep up with the youngsters.  But his love for the game would not be denied.  He helped create the PGA Tour Champions, a professional tour for golfers over the age of 50.

When former president Gerald Ford came up with the idea for the President’s Cup, a competition between the best American golfers and the rest of the world, he knew who to call.  He worked with his friend Arnie, and together, they made it happen.

If you want to watch golf on TV today, you can turn on the Golf Channel.  That is Arnie’s baby.  He built it.  As I write this, I am watching Morning Drive, the daily golf talk show.  It is broadcast from Studio AP.  AP = Arnold Palmer.

Arnold was a friend to kings and presidents, his charismatic personality was undeniable.  When he walked into the room, you knew he was there.  But he treated everyone he met like they were special. 

But you didn’t want to get on his bad side.  Many professional golfers have a story about being berated by Arnie over autographs.  He was critical when he saw another golfer walk off without signing every autograph the fans wanted, when they gave a sloppy autograph, or when they ignored their fans.

And, of course, he invented the beverage known as the Arnold Palmer.  Iced tea with a touch of lemonade.

If you asked Mr. Palmer what his greatest accomplishment was, he wouldn’t have mentioned golf. He would talk about the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, a 158 bed pediatric facility in Orlando, Florida.  He has touched the lives of millions of people through his charitable endeavors.  His legacy will continue long after all of us are gone.

But like I said, everyone knows about that stuff, so I won’t mention it. 

Instead, I will tell you about the time Arnold Palmer played an exhibition match in Huntsville, Alabama.  He played against several of the area’s best golfers, including local legend Frank Campbell.  Frank was actually ahead of the King after 9 holes, prompting Arnie to say, “Hey Big Frank, watch it.  I’m supposed to be giving this here exhibition, not you.”

Arnold went on to win the match, it’s pretty hard to beat a King.  In the audience that day was a man who’d never played much golf.  He only attended the match because his boss had an extra ticket.  But like many others, he was knocked off of his feet by Mr. Palmer’s personality.  His passion for golf was born that day.  He never was that good, it is a difficult sport to master if you learn it late in life.  But he passed his passion on to his son.  Now you know how I became a golfer.

One thing led to another, and eventually I became friends with Frank Campbell.  Sadly, we lost Frank just a few months ago.  At the visitation, I promised myself I would write Frank’s story.  I never did.  So this will be my tribute to both Arnold and Frank.

I was honored when Frank’s family gave me some mementos of his golf career.  I have his putter, the last golf club he ever held in his hands.  And a patch from Royal Troon Golf Club in Scotland, where Frank played in the British Amateur championship.  But the coolest thing they gave me is a plaque, which highlights his career and contains the previously mentioned quote from Mr. Palmer.  It is the cover photo for this story.

My friends know I am a notorious liar and constantly say things that can’t be true.  That’s why I became a writer.  But I am serious about this.  I am going to build a golf course, overlooking the Black Sea, just south of Anapa, Russia.  On the first tee, there will be a granite marker honoring Arnold Palmer.  And, in the clubhouse, behind the counter, you’ll see Frank Campbell’s plaque.

Frank William Campbell, Sr. was born April 11, 1926 in Birmingham, Alabama.  He served his country honorably during World War II, then came to Huntsville and made a life as an insurance salesman and amateur golfer.  He won over 250 tournaments in the US and around the world.  He was a beloved husband, father, and grandfather, and a friend to many.  He died March 5, 2016.

Arnold Daniel Palmer was born September 10, 1929 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  He was married for 45 years to Winnie Palmer, they had two daughters.  Winnie died in 1999.  Arnold married Kathleen Gawthrop in 2005.  Grandson Sam Saunders is currently a professional golfer.  Arnold died September 25, 2016.


© Copyright 2017 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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