I couldn’t have been much older than 10 or 11 years old when my dad took me to a seniors’ tour tournament at Plum Creek GC in Denver. I don’t know if it was the Senior’s PGA or Open or some other tournament, but what I remember most was getting to meet and talk with Arnold Palmer for what felt like a long time, but was probably not more than 1 or 2 minutes. He was walking off the practice green and I (after some coaching from my dad) asked him, “Mr Palmer, can I please have your autograph?” and I handed him the little autograph book that I had been collecting other autographs in (including John Elway’s during his rookie camp with the Broncos). He was so incredibly gracious in agreeing to give me his autograph. He stopped and talked with me a few minutes asking me about what I thought about golf, whether I was enjoying the tournament, and so forth. He then so very neatly signed the autograph book, thanked me (yes thanked me) for coming out and went on his way.
I don’t remember much else of that tournament, but I will never forget that moment. That came to mind for me tonight as I read the news that Arnold Palmer had passed away. As a read a few recollections of him that were already posted on espn.com and other sites, I thought of the reading this morning from Galatians 5. Paul wraps that part of the letter with his sharing of what he called “the fruit of the spirit” – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I know that those were not all in the golf bag of Arnold Palmer (specifically self-control – he took some crazy risks on the course), but there were a lot in the way that I understand he lived his life. There weren’t scandals off the course with him – there was simply a graciousness of a man who played a game the right way and lived his life the right way.
Thank you, Arnie for giving a 10 year old boy a memory he will never forget.