GOLF WRITER // GENERAL EDITORIAL SPECIALIST
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All Things Arnie

Arnold Palmer was the first golf idol for golf writer Cliff Schrock. This page will contain material exclusively about Arnie's life and personality and charisma.

Arnie was the original Heritage hero

I’ve never been to Hilton Head Island, but when the PGA Tour goes there the week after the Masters, it becomes one of my favorite back-to-back weeks of golf to watch. Harbour Town is a nice counterbalance to the West Coast stops earlier in the year and gives viewers a beautiful respite after the drama at Augusta. The tight, short layout and small greens give the pros all they can handle and usually a great finish.

Watching the Heritage is also a reminder each year of Arnold Palmer, not that it’s the only time I think of him. But the RBC Heritage Classic is a relatively new tour event compared to the rest of them, and Palmer was its first winner.

Arnie wins the first Heritage, with the unfinished lighthouse in the background.

Arnie wins the first Heritage, with the unfinished lighthouse in the background.

Arnie, who was the trailblazer for many golf milestones, such as being the first player to earn $1 million in career tour earnings, was proficient at winning a tour event’s inaugural event. After the first 36 holes of this week's Heritage, Sam Saunders, Palmer’s grandson, was three shots off the lead. What a great and appropriate place it would be for his first tour victory.

The debut of the Heritage Classic in 1969 was held shortly after Pete Dye designed Harbour Town Golf Links, with assistance from Jack Nicklaus. We are used to the Heritage being held the week after the Masters, as it is this week for its 49th playing, but the ’69 inaugural event was held on Thanksgiving week, Nov. 27-30. Palmer, then 40, had been winless for 14 months when he put together rounds of 68-71-70-74—283 to win by three shots. Winning at Harbour Town was so new that in a photo of Palmer being given the winner's plaque from tournament chairman Charles Fraser the still-under-construction lighthouse can be seen in the background.

Palmer felt like he had won his first tour event all over again: “I think this is one of my most important wins, almost like the first one. I wanted to win this one as much as I would a U.S. Open or Masters, or any other tournament.”

Palmer was the inaugural winner in several tour events among his 62 victories. Of the tournaments on the current tour schedule, Nicklaus won the first playing of three: The Players (1974), WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (1976, known as the World Series of Golf), and The Northern Trust (The Barclays) (1967, as Westchester Classic). Palmer is next with two: the RBC Heritage and CareerBuilder Challenge (the Palm Springs Golf Classic when he won in 1960).

But A.P. won the first playing of five other tour events no longer on the schedule, including the 1968 Kemper Open, the 1963 Whitemarsh Open (Philadelphia) and the 1963 Cleveland Open. With the 1969 Diplomat Classic and 1958 Pepsi Golf Championship only being held for one year, Palmer was both the first and last winner in those events.

 

Cliff Schrock
Arnie tributes given varied and often

Originally posted on March 20, 2017

One can imagine that the items on a checklist to honor Arnie at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard last week and over the weekend were pretty much all marked off.

Statue of A.P. in his corkscrew finish, check.

Grandson Sam Saunders, his mother Amy, and family and friends fully supportive, check.

Driving-range tribute of sequenced shots by several players, check.

Golf cart with A.P.'s bag of clubs by 16 tee/18 fairway, check.

Golf bag and balls on driving range, check.

Red cardigan put on the winner Sunday, check.

Photos of his desk as he left it, Masters yardage book and Arnie-themed golf shoes worn by players, check.

Nonstop references to The King on TV, Twitter and other social-media, check.

A tight finish with an emotionally satisfying human-interest champion in Marc Leishman, check.

The tributes flowed as smoothly as a pour out of a Ketel One Vodka bottle. By the end of the week, however, some were questioning if the constant tribute references and the types of them were getting a little "creepy," to use one word. The inference was that all the visuals showing places where Arnold would normally be but wasn’t were overdone. To me, it reminded me of the Alastair Sim "Scrooge" movie version (the best) where toward the end Scrooge is led by the Ghost of the Future to places he would normally be or hearing discussions of someone’sdemise and wondering if it all had to do with him but he wasn’t there in physical form.

That was a story of redemption and we know it’s all a dream, Scrooge will live on after his reformation. Arnie will live on, too, but in memory and spirit and in the written and visual record that we can be thankful is mammoth in size.

Arnie was my first golf hero, but I was starting to feel the constant references to what the week symbolized were perhaps lessening the effect by their overwhelming nature. There was so much you started getting numb to it all.

But ultimately, I feel everyone should give family, organizers, players and the media a pass on any negative reaction to how strong the tributes were this first year. Going forward, in the slow march of time, the annual Bay Hill tribute will be more subtle, less overpowering, and will feel just right. That’s just a byproduct of the slow passage of years. As long as golf is played, Arnold Palmer will be synonymous with the sport. It's better to hear that too often than not enough.

Cliff Schrock
How Arnold fared in what became his event

Originally posted March 16, 2017

The last time we had seen Arnold Palmer tee it up at Bay Hill to play in his PGA Tour event was in 2004, so we’d had a dozen years to think of him more as the friendly trophy presenter rather than a competitor. But the event was such a part of the Palmer fabric that the first round this week will be just the fifth ever played without him as either a player or present in some capacity. He did not play in the 1969 tournament. Golf World magazine reported in its March 18, 1969, issue that Palmer was suffering from a “lumbosacral strain,” a torturous phrase that meant his right hip was not in the proper position. He was seeing a chiropractor who was designing a heel wedge for his shoe.

The Arnold Palmer Invitational started as the Florida Citrus Open in 1966 at Rio Pinar Country Club in Orlando. Palmer was 36 & 1/2 years old and two seasons past his last major win. He was devoted to the tournament and only missed 1969 as a player. He played the event 38 times in all, winning in 1971, and finishing second in 1967 and 1970. The tournament switched to Bay Hill in 1979, and it slowly evolved into Arnie’s baby, with his name going on it in 2007.

Here is Arnold Palmer’s record at his namesake event with year, event name, dates, his scores, finish and money:

1966 Florida Citrus Open, March 17-20: 75-70-72-71—288, T-36, $502.15

1967 Florida Citrus Open, March 9-12: 67-69-71-68—275, T-2, $11,212.50

1968 Florida Citrus Open, March 14-17: 71-76—147, Missed Cut

1969 Did Not Play

1970 Florida Citrus Open, March 5-8: 64-72-64-72—272, T-2, $13,875

1971 Florida Citrus Open, March 11-14: 66-68-68-68—270, 1st, $30,000

1972 Florida Citrus Open, March 9-12: 72-75—147, Missed Cut

1973 Florida Citrus Open, March 1-4: 70-74—144, Missed Cut

1974 Florida Citrus Open, Feb. 28-March 3: 68-73-72-74—287, T-41, $540

1975 Florida Citrus Open, March 6-9: 72-69-75-73—289, T-42, $660

1976 Florida Citrus Open, March 4-7: 74-72—146, Missed Cut

1977 Florida Citrus Open, March 3-7: 71-72-69-75—287, T-48, $494.28

1978 Florida Citrus Open, March 2-6: 65-73-71-71—280, T-14, $3,400

1979 Bay Hill Citrus Classic, March 1-4: 70-74-70-80—294, 59th, $555

1980 Bay Hill Classic, Feb. 28-March 2: 76-71-74-85—306, T-69, $600

1981 Bay Hill Classic, Feb. 26-March 1: 73-72-73-76—294, T-63, $639

1982 Bay Hill Classic, March 4-7: 76-74—150, Missed Cut

1983 Bay Hill Classic, March 10-13: 78-85—163, Missed Cut

1984 Bay Hill Classic, March 15-18: 72-71-74-78—295, T-68, $812

1985 Hertz Bay Hill Classic, March 7-10: 78-73—151, Missed Cut

1986 Hertz Bay Hill Classic, March 13-16: 78—78, Missed Cut (rain shortened)

1987 Hertz Bay Hill Classic, March 12-15: 77-79—156, Missed Cut

1988 Hertz Bay Hill Classic, March 17-20: 72-74—146, Missed Cut

1989 Nestle Invitational, March 9-12: 83-74—157, Missed Cut

1990 Nestle Invitational, March 22-25: 74-77—151, Missed Cut

1991 Nestle Invitational, March 14-17: 72-71-70—213, T-24, $7,737.50 (rain shortened)

1992 Nestle Invitational, March 19-22: 74-77—151, Missed Cut

1993 Nestle Invitational, March 18-21: 73-76-78-75—302, T-71, $1,970

1994 Nestle Invitational, March 17-20: 80-78—158, Missed Cut

1995 Nestle Invitational, March 16-19: 73-78—151, Missed Cut

1996 Bay Hill Invitational (Office Depot), March 14-17: 75-74—149, Missed Cut

1997 Bay Hill Invitational (Office Depot), March 20-23: 81—81, Withdrew before completion of delayed second round

1998 Bay Hill Invitational (Cooper Tires), March 19-22: 78-78—156, Missed Cut

1999 Bay Hill Invitational (Cooper Tires), March 11-14: 78-74—152, Missed Cut

2000 Bay Hill Invitational (Cooper Tires), March 16-19: 82-76—158, Missed Cut

2001 Bay Hill Invitational (Cooper Tires), March 15-18: 85-78—163, Missed Cut

2002 Bay Hill Invitational (Cooper Tires), March 14-17: 86, Withdrew

2003 Bay Hill Invitational (Cooper Tires), March 20-23: 87-85—172, Missed Cut

2004 Bay Hill Invitational (MasterCard), March 18-21: 88-79—167, Missed Cut

Cliff Schrock
Arnold Palmer: Keep the legacy in perpetuity

Originally posted March 5, 2017:

There’s a short list building for Golf Personalities of 2017—Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson among the leaders—but one of the prime candidates won’t be seen or heard from in person. And there’s great potential for him to be on the list for many years to come despite his absence.

The personality? Arnold Palmer. Not yet a half-year removed from his September 25 death at age 87, the golf community is in the early stages of understanding what Arnie’s void will mean for the game. More than any other golf legend who has left us, it will be interesting to see how golf progresses without him and how strong Palmer’s legacy as someone who cared deeply about the game’s health will remain for years to come.

The older you are as a Palmer devotee the more likely you are to feel he’s eternal, with no chance of his persona slipping from the occasional reference or the example he led as a professional golfer and how to be a fan favorite held up as the ultimate example for young players. A video of Palmer describing how to conduct oneself on tour should be handed to every new tour player as SOP; there certainly must be miles of film quoting his thoughts.

I started playing golf in the early 1970s, right at the end of his winning years on the PGA Tour. I was in eighth grade and out with my buddies on the night he won his final tour event in 1973, the Bob Hope Classic. The autographed photo you see on my home page and the letter he wrote to me played a strong role in me wanting to play the game. The first time I saw him in person was at the senior Commemorative event in the mid-1980s at Newport Country Club. And what a sight: He was on the par-3 fourth, Graves Point, standing on the tee with the Atlantic Ocean in the background. I never got to shake the hand that people said swallowed up yours, but I was within handshake distance of him at a Gold Tee Dinner among a crowd of people and asked him to sign a program cover (I know, a no-no for media) that had images of him, Jack and Barbara Nicklaus and Hale Irwin on it. Got the other three too.

The younger a golf fan is, the more likely Arnold Palmer’s hold will fade on them, and that is sad if true. We are several weeks past one of Palmer’s prominent and regular tour involvements with the Hope tournament, now known as the CareerBuilder Challenge, being played in January. Soon upon us will be two larger moments that will remind us again of his passing and the emptiness the golf world will have to get used to: his Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard at Bay Hill March 16-19, and the Masters Tournament in April.

Thankfully, that younger golf fan will have plenty to keep Arnold Palmer front and center and grow his appreciation for him. It was announced recently that his memorabilia will be on display at various tournament locations. We can be assured, too, that CBS and the Masters will give Arnie his due every spring. He’s on the masters.com home page at the moment. And the news that Graeme McDowell, Annika Sorenstam, Curtis Strange, Peter Jacobsen and former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge will fill in as Bay Hill hosts is an assuring sign that Arnold’s tournament will “do a Byron Nelson” and keep his name front and center and not do a Bob Hope and fade away.

Also encouraging: AP’s charity foundation will continue  to do the good it has been doing, following the example Palmer started setting decades ago when he was the March of Dimes chairman. Visit arniesarmy.org to see the work being done.

Let’s all toast that the Palmer legacy endures in perpetuity, and let’s make the drink an Arnold Palmer.

Cliff Schrock