Leave it to the capable hands of the legendary sports writer Dan Jenkins to capture a cameo image of the most telegenic golf champion of our time as he turned the first fateful age corner of his career. This jewel of an article from the annals of the SI Vault, “Thanks For The Memories”, written in September of 1969, reminds us of the unique relationships between sports writers and the heroes of sport in the day. Dan’s intimate familiarity with a star and a major event has all but been lost in our era of media overload.
Jenkins cuts right to the chase in recognizing Arnie’s meteoric rise to fame and fortune for what it was-a timely nexus of his competitive drive, good nature, humility, and access to the first world wide web-color television.
“He was a nice guy, of all things. He was honestly and naturally gracious, un-temperamental, talkative, helpful and advising, unselfish of his time, marvelously good-humored; he had a special feeling for golf’s history and he was honored by its traditions.”
The anecdotal perspective of Palmer’s stunning win at the U.S. Open in 1960 sounds like it is being told from a bar stool at Toots Shor’s…which it probably was about twenty times over the previous ten years. Jenkins puts you in the moment like no other writer can and you feel like Arnie is talking to you inside the ropes on the fifth tee when he incredulously says, “Fancy seeing you here…..Who’s winning the Open?”.
Palmer did so much for the pro tour in his first 10 years and for the state of the game over the next 46. Whether it was designing courses with Ed Seay, bringing the Bay Hill Golf Resort to full flourish, stewarding the Senior Tour, or creating the Golf Channel, Arnie has left his indelible fingerprints on the positive growth of the game for six decades.
Jenkins says, “He has become, they say, something more than life-size, something immeasurable in champions….. If this is true, it is not because of what he has won but rather because of the pure, unmixed joy he brought to trying.”
You will enjoy this flashback moment captured by Dan Jenkins for SI celebrating Arnie’s 40th birthday year.
Dan Jenkins (1969)