A Day With A Wake Forest Legend
By: Gary Petit, Assistant Media Relations Director (@GaryWFU)
After finishing the season at the NCAA East Regional at Penn State on Saturday, May 12, the women's golf team embarked on truly a once and a lifetime experience. Wake Forest great Arnold Palmer invited the group to his hometown of Latrobe, Pa., for a round of golf and a tour of his facilities.
The day started with a light breakfast at the hotel and then we jumped in the car/van and headed to Latrobe Country Club. We drove in under overcast skies that threatened of rain. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Arnold's brother Jerry Palmer, who as you would expect, bears a striking resemblance to Arnold. Jerry walked us through the pro shop and got us setup for our round. But with seven females in the group, there was no way we could get out of the pro shop without going on a raid. The two males in the group, myself and Associate Director of Athletics Mike Buddie, got our couple of keepsakes and headed to the putting green while the ladies did their thing.
The round of golf was great. Despite an off-and-on light rain throughout the day, the course was in immaculate shape and the greens rolled well. Arnold stopped out with his dog Mulligan midway through the back nine to greet each group. The Golf Gods must have known he was out there because for that 30 minutes, the rain stopped. Even though this was just a fun round of golf, there was something unnerving about hitting a golf shot in front of Arnold Palmer. For someone whose only played a handful of rounds this year, I was nervous. As luck would have it, I hit my best drive of the day and then knocked my wedge to within eight feet. Thankfully Arnold drove off to talk to another group before watching me miss my eight-footer, but I think I handled myself well. From talking with the rest of the group, I wasn't the only one who was nervous in the presence of golfing greatness.
I think Mike and I were the only two that kept our score for the day but I don't think we need to discuss the specifics. With no one else on the course and playing in threesomes, we zipped around in about three hours. Jerry met us in the parking lot after we finished and I don't think any of us were ready for what came next.
Jerry, along with Arnold's assistant/friend Doc Giffin, led us across the street to Arnold's office. I'm not sure I can properly describe everything that was in there in the blog. The pictures may help but we were all amazed by what we saw. There were major championship trophies, Ryder Cup badges, keys to cities in which he has received, player badges, Sports Illustrated covers, Crystal awards, photos of Arnold with dignitaries and much more.
Arnold and Mulligan again met us in his office and he gave us a personal tour. He took us into his office where the walls were lined with photos. One wall was filled with photos of his family. Another wall had photos of some of the beautiful golf course that he has played. The other two walls had photos of him along with all of his honorary degrees. The wall behind his desk featured a number of Wake Forest photos, including the photo of him and his best friend Bubby Worsham. Before leaving his office, Arnold introduced us to his wife Kit, took a few photos with the team and signed a number of autographs. He pointed to a pile of memorabilia in the corner and said, "That's my work for Monday." He takes time each Monday to sign items that people have sent to him.
Our next stop was his workshop. As you hopefully can see in the photos, he has held on to a couple of clubs he's used over the years. I can't even begin to guess how many putters and drivers were on the shelves. He also had a number of sets of irons and a couple of football and basketballs from various games he's attended.
After the workshop, we moved into a smaller office that displayed a replica of every plane that he has flown. Those ranged from commercial jets to small private planes. Arnold shared a story about his flight around the world. He took off and landed in Denver, Colo., and was scheduled to make just nine stops. But he had to add a stop because as he said, "I was pretty closed to running out of fuel." In total, the trip took just over 57 hours and 25 minutes. Arnold was also asked how he got into flying. He said it was basically out of necessity. He was terrified of flying but knew he was going to have to fly around the country to golf and grow his business. So he felt more safe at the controls himself then allowing someone else behind the wheel. He now has over 20,000 flight hours under his belt. After a couple more brief stories, Arnold thanked us for coming and he and Mulligan headed back to the house to sit by the fire and watch the end of the Players Championship.
Jerry then took us to the other end of the course to an unassuming red barn. Inside was an unmatched collection of memorabilia. Just about every club that Arnold has used in his career was in this warehouse along with a large number of shoes in every style and color. The warehouse also featured a number of books, photos and film from his major championship victories. One of the main attractions was the original orange Pennzoil tractor that was used in one of his first TV endorsements.
We ended the day with a nice lunch at the Palmer Grille in the clubhouse where we obviously had to order a couple of Arnold Palmers to drink. From start to finish, the day was truly amazing and a great way to cap off the season.
Sorry about the shakiness of the video. I was like a kid in a candy story and as you can see by the looks on some of the players' faces, I wasn't the only one.