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Sports View: A sad day for golf fans; Arnie's gone

by KEN LAHMERS | EDITOR Published: October 5, 2016 1:00 AM
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It's been nearly 40 years since I played a round of golf.

But in junior high, high school and college, I played a lot. I tried out for my high school golf team for two years, but didn't make it.

I was never that good -- my best score was 37 on a par 33 course -- but I enjoyed walking around outside for a few hours.

Yes, in those days my dad, friends and I walked the courses we played. Hardly ever did we use a cart.

I also enjoyed watching pro golf tourneys on television, a few even before my family had a color set.

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And my favorite pro golfer was Arnold Palmer, who recently died at age 87. Others were Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Doug Sanders, Billy Casper and Lee Trevino.

I can remember watching The Big 3 of "The King" Palmer, Player and Nicklaus going head-to-head in many tournaments. Arnie was the first superstar of golf's TV age.

Although I never saw Arnie or Gary play in person and never got to meet them, I did walk the terrain with Jack when Barrington Golf Club in Aurora was under construction.

Among Palmer's accomplishments were 62 PGA Tour wins, seven major championships, four-time PGA Tour money champion, first PGA Tour millionaire and 15 straight years with at least one victory.

Only four other pro golfers have more PGA Tour wins than Arnie -- Sam Snead, Tiger Woods, Nicklaus and Ben Hogan.

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Palmer's pro career began in 1955, and he played in at least one PGA Tour event for 52 consecutive years. He won four Masters, one U.S. Open and two British Open championships.

HE ALSO holds the record low score of 64 -- along with pros Bruce Devlin and Charles Coody and local amateur Tom Laubacher -- at the now defunct Aurora Golf Club. That was accomplished one of the three years Aurora hosted the Cleveland Open.

Palmer grew up not too far from here -- in Latrobe, Pa., once famous for brewing Rolling Rock beer. It now brews Iron City.

As one of Pennsylvania's most famous sports legends, several items relating to Arnie are in the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, which I visited in 2015.

Like Nicklaus, Palmer designed dozens of golf courses, including Speidel at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, W. Va., and owned Latrobe Country Club, where his father once was club pro.

I covered the Wheeling LPGA Championship at Speidel a couple of years in the late 1970s.

Arnie was invited to be the honorary starter at the Masters in 2007, a task he shared in recent years with Nicklaus and Player. Because of his failing health, he wasn't able to attend this year's U.S. Open, which took place at Oakmont Country Club, not far from Latrobe.

Palmer even had a drink named after him -- a combination of lemonade and iced tea. "That's in a league of your own," pro golfer Padraig Harrington said when he learned of the drink.

Palmer's unorthodox swing, his smile, charm and charisma will always be remembered by those of us in his "Army."

As Player said the day after Arnie's death: "He was loved by all, even when they did not know him. To me, he was simply a dear friend for over 60 years. I will miss him terribly."

Player signed off his tribute to Palmer with: "Rest in peace, I love you." Hundreds of thousands of golf fans like myself are saying the same thing.

Email: klahmers@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4189


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