Tag Archive for 'golf'

Arnold Palmer was in reality what he appeared to be

Golf legend, Arnold Palmer, is dead. No ordinary man: He was called “The King,” he had an army, and he was beloved by all.

Twenty-five hundred years ago, Socrates said the greatest way to live your life is to be in reality what you appear to be. That was Arnold Palmer. The charismatic person you saw on television - the impish smile, the twinkle in his eye, how he treated people - wasn’t a persona. That was the real Arnold.

Arnold and I weren’t BFF (best friends forever), but over almost a quarter century we had many different interactions: helping him as a driving range volunteer at a pro golf tournament; interviewing him more than once while broadcasting my radio program from his Bay Hill Golf Club in Orlando; as a member of the National Advisory Council of his beloved hospital; and he provided the foreword for my second book. Whenever I was around him I thought of Socrates, because Arnold Palmer truly was in reality what he appeared to be.

Someone else warned that you never want to meet your heroes, lest you come away disappointed. If you were a member of Arnie’s Army, once you had the privilege to meet him, any subsequent reappraising was to increase your emotional investment in him. People idolized Arnold because his golf game and personality were both blue collar: straight up and unpretentious.

When asked to briefly compare himself to Arnold, longtime friend and frequent nemesis on the tour, Jack Nicklaus, said, “I love golf. Arnold loves people.” Clearly, no one loved golf more than Arnold Palmer. But seeing how he interacted with others, all the way down to a member of the gallery he was in front of for seconds, anyone could see how much Arnold loved people. Jack is known to never autograph a golf ball. Arnold signed whatever you handed him, and he always told young pros, “Sign your name so people can read it,” as he always did.

The only thing about Arnold that saddened me was something many people didn’t know: For probably the last third of his life, he had significant hearing loss, even with hearing aids. When you saw Arnold deliver his patented thumbs up response with those massive hands, that was his way of coping with the fact that he heard someone addressing him, but didn’t hear what was said. It was troubling to me that someone might think he was being arrogant or dismissive by not answering, when nothing could be further from the truth. For the most notoriously approachable living legend on the planet, who truly couldn’t get enough of people, his hearing loss was the cruelest disability.

Everyone wanted a piece of Arnold and he never disappointed. A couple of years ago, my wife and I were in attendance at a dinner celebration prior to the Insperity Invitational that Arnold had promised to attend. Even though he was obviously struggling with back pain, he fulfilled his promise. As people came by his table during the evening, old friends and not-yet-friends, with great difficulty Arnold stood up to shake the hand of every one. Years before, in one of our interviews, Arnold quoted his father, Deacon, about that: “Son, whatever you do in your life, turn the table over and treat others like you want to be treated when you’re on the other side.” Treating people like they mattered ran very deep in Arnold Palmer, sometimes even at his own physical expense, whether you were a big deal or a bus boy.

The Orlando hospitals that bore his and his first wife, Winnie’s names, were extremely important to him. Once while Arnold joined several of us for a tour of the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, a doctor was describing the new and expensive, life-saving device of which they were so proud. Literally in the middle of that demonstration, I heard Arnold say, “Isn’t it great that it doesn’t smell like a hospital in here?” That detail was important to him, because he believed the antiseptic smell of medical facilities was frightening to children who were already under stress. By the way, one of Arnold’s edicts for the hospital was that no one would ever be turned away because they can’t afford the care. Arnold wasn’t just a golf legend, he was a human legend.

The story is legend of successful golf pros who failed trying to replicate their on-course success in business. That wasn’t Arnold’s story. He made a good living playing golf, but he became rich in the marketplace. In one interview I asked him for a success tip for business owners and he said, “Be trustworthy, be frank and straight-up.” I’m calling that Palmer’s Business Razor.

As “The man who saved golf,” and “The man who reinvented professional golf,” every touring pro in the modern era should thank Arnold Palmer, because they stand on his shoulders. And everyone who values sportsmanship, good manners, kindness, graciousness, humility, and class should thank Arnold Palmer. More than anyone else, Arnold not only demonstrated those values whether he won or lost, but you were inspired by him to demonstrate them yourself, if for no other reason than you wouldn’t dare risk disappointing him.

Clearly, Arnold Palmer lived a charmed life, but he also charmed our lives. For seven decades, wherever Arnold traveled around the globe, the world wanted a piece of him. I never met anyone who had so much to give, and who wanted so much to give it. The truly great human beings have one thing in common: They stand for something greater than themselves. During one of our interviews Arnold told me, “The reason I started traveling internationally was to promote golf as an agent to help make nations to be more friendly.”

The King is dead. Long live the King’s legacy.

My love for golf – and Arnold Palmer

For the next three days, we’re at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Golf Tournament in Bay Hill, Florida, which is hard-by to Orlando. I’m trying to remember what other living person has a PGA golf tournament named for them.

Let me tell you about my love for golf, and for Arnold Palmer.

If you’re a golfer, I don’t have to explain my torrid affair with this maddening game. I’ve been playing – off and on – for over 35 years. Once I got my handicap into the single digits, but now it’s mostly in the low teens.

One of the things I love about golf is how the principles of the game have remained so pure over the generations. It’s still the only game where the participants are required to call any infraction on themselves. If you watch any of the PGA tour events on television long enough, you’ll eventually see a pro invoke a rule on himself or herself. But that’s not the best part: There is a good chance that the infraction that occurred may only be known to that player. That’s right. These guys penalize themselves if they violate a rule that only they know has been breeched.

I don’t know if Nobel laureate Albert Camut was a golfer, but surely he had golf in mind when he so elegantly said, “Integrity has no need for rules.” In golf, integrity also has no need for umpires.

Now, about my love for Arnold Palmer, first: Who doesn’t love The King? And Arnold loves you. At least, that’s what you would believe if you ever met him.

The greatest man to ever play the game – well, before Tiger Woods – is Jack Nicklaus, who once described the difference between him and Arnold: “I love golf; Arnold loves people.” Nuff said.

I love Arnold because of the influence he has had on golf, especially its rich traditions. I know of no other living person who embodies all that is good about golf than Arnold Palmer. And I love Arnold because of the entrepreneurial legend he has become. Arnold Palmer is not just a businessman, he is an industry – a pretty large industry – but still, he is a small business owner. And while his accomplishments would impress you, when you realized how much he still does – at age 79 – your appreciation would grow quickly.

In recent years, I’ve been around Arnold quite a bit. He provided the foreword for my second book, and I am on the National Advisory Council for the Arnold Palmer Hospitals in Orlando. I love meeting celebrities who are as Confucius once said about how to live a good life, “Be in reality what you appear to be.” Confucius was talking about Arnold Palmer.

Today, I’m playing in the Pro-Am with my friends and other amateurs, Jason Cutbirth (Insperity) and Jean Beakey (GolfChannel.com). Our pro is Pat Perez, who won earlier this year at the Bob Hope. It’s going to be fun.

A while back, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I interviewed Mr. Palmer – face-to-face – here at Bay Hill. Since 1997, I’ve conducted almost 10,000 interviews with some pretty cool people, but this interview has to be one of the top two or three. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to what this living legend had to say about golf, about life and about business. And, as always, be sure to leave your thoughts.




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