Don had to attend a board meeting in Riverside. He is a Trustee for the La Sierra University Board. After spending a week in Death Valley golfing with the in-laws and another week with my folks in Central California we headed to Don's cousins place in Palm Desert. We planned on staying with them while Don attended his meetings. I have a friend that lives in the same town I do who has a second home in Palm Springs. We golf together among other things. I gave her a call to see if she would be in Palm Springs and to my surprise she would be. We made arrangements to play at her course. I knew she had a private membership to some place but didn't know where.
The Traditions - a private course designed by Arnold Palmer
The weather couldn't have been more perfect especially for golf. Dianna came and picked me up and we headed to her home. We drove up to a beautiful and immaculately kept gate and the attendant, with a huge smile, waved us through. My mouth dropped open as we drove to her home. The neighborhood was affluent and the homes were amazingly beautiful. I couldn't get over the array of colored Petunias planted in mass everywhere. We drove into her driveway, took the clubs out of the back of her car and loaded them into her golf cart. After giving me the grand tour of her gorgeous villa complete with a view of hole 14 at the Tradition we drove to the course.
The men's membership was having their tournament so we had to wait until they were finished. There is a little three par course wrapped around the driving range. We parked, pulled out four or five clubs to carry with us, (not allowed to drive the cart on that course) and we approached the first hole. This was great! The course was one of the most beautiful courses I have ever seen. I just couldn't get over the flowers planted in abundance around the fairways and greens. This is what heaven would look like to me.
Finishing the first hole we set up on the second tee box. Dianna hit a beautiful drive and landed on the green several feet from the pin. As I approached my ball I hear Dianna whisper, "There's Arnold Palmer." She said it matter-of-factly. I ignored her, thinking she was kidding. We always joke with each other and we love to laugh. I drove my ball and it fell just short of the green. Then I looked and saw a man in a cart sitting to the left of the green watching us. "Come on, I'll introduce you!" Picking up my clubs I followed her over to his cart.
"This is my friend Sue Kanen. She is visiting me from Colorado. Sue, this is Arnold Palmer." He smiled broadly and held out is hand. I gave him a hearty hand shake. "I thought I would watch a couple of women play golf for awhile. How are you?" he asked in a warm and friendly voice.
We chatted a few moments and as we walked back to finish our hole I threw back over my shoulder, "Very nice to meet you." I made my chip shot a few feet from the hole and made my putt for par. All the while Arnold was watching. When we were finished we waved and went on to the next hole and he drove on to his home on the other side of the tee box.
Now this is Arnold Palmer nicknamed "The King" of golf. He is in The Big Three of world famous golfers along with Jack Nicholas and Gary Player - men who are credited with popularizing golf and were at the forefront of Televised golf tournaments. He has designed dozens of courses and is in the World Golf Hall of Fame since 1974. He was awarded the PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998 among numerous other awards. He still plays in some senior tournaments, makes appearances, flys (I think he has a pilots license, has written several books and numerous articles, supports charities (including a hospital) survived cancer - and I just talked to him as though I had known him all my life.
The magnitude of what just happened hit me a few holes later and I called my son and told him that I had met Arnold Palmer. "NO WAY!" I told him what happened and he exclaimed, "Did you get his autograph!" After telling him that I didn't he proceeded to tell me, "Arnold Palmer is one of the greatest men that ever lived! He is greater than any of our presidents. There is no drink named after Bush or Obama, but there is a drink named after him! I can't believe you didn't get his autograph! He is my idol!"
I couldn't believe my son has an idol that is 81 years old. My son is 25. But that's what makes Arnold Palmer so great. He is a legend. A mentor in every sense of the word the entire world of golf will see him as such long after he is gone. I felt privileged to meet him and appreciate immensely his contribution to golf and humanity. And it's not like I won't see him again...I've been invited back to play with the ladies in the Fall.