In my mid teens and thanks to a school chum, I took up the game of golf – somehow this appealed to my more individualist streak at a time I was not much into team games. Me and my friend would visit our local golf course (Belfairs Park) each week, up to the time I went to university. Later, in my working life, I took up the game again, but was never that good. I enjoyed the experience trying to better my game, with limited success, but more so “smelling the roses”.
I recall in those younger days there was a trio of golfing greats: Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, and these became my heroes, who I tried to emulate, although lacking the talent they had. I learned with sadness that Arnold Palmer died yesterday. Already tributes are pouring in (see here and here) which says much about the great man. While he became rich and famous, more than any before him, because he was able to exploit the commercial opportunities being a golfing star presented, there was much about the way he played golf and his life, including modesty, that appealed to the common man, including me, for he had many admirers. He is widely seen as a legend, and among golfers he was the king.
I was touched by the tribute BBC golf commentator gave concerning Arnold in Radio 4’s Today program, earlier today. The way golf is to be played – with discipline, tenacity and courage, sportsmanship and respect for ones opponent, and the game itself including its traditions, playing by the rules, is a metaphor on life itself, and all these qualities plus his down to earth approach, his generosity toward those less fortunate and his wider perspective on life are qualities he had in abundance. Thank you Arnold for the memories.