A Farewell to Arnold Palmer

I fell asleep Sunday after watching the FedEx Cup Playoff with an alarm set for precisely the time Davis Love III was going to be selecting the "12th man" of the US Ryder Cup team. Instead I woke up to Twitter informing me that one of golf's greatest ambassadors was gone. Arnold Palmer felt like your grandfather, a loveable teddy bear, just looking at him made you want to be a better person. The tributes, all of which have been phenomenal, started rolling in.

Everyone seems to have an Arnie story, whether it was something humorous he said, how graciously he treated you, or how he made you feel. I often wonder when we lose these behemoths of the sports world and start to hear everyone else's story if it takes away for some people how "special" their own moment was for them? Does it lose some of its luster because there are so many similar ones out there? Perhaps, but yesterday as I was reading all of the stories about Arnold Palmer, I felt mine become more significant.

Every generation grew up with a superstar player. For mine it was Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Ken Griffey Jr. For my Dad it was Greg Norman, Larry Bird, Johnny Unitas. For my grandfather it was Arnold, Hank Aaron, and Joe Namath. The difference in these lists of the greats is that all three generations got to watch Arnold play. Think about that, THREE generations who got to witness the highs and lows of an athlete's career. That's insane.

To share a common favorite athlete with three generations is almost unheard of, but leave it to Arnold to do it. My grandmother loved Arnold. So did my great Aunt Louise, who I'm named after. I sent a text to my parents yesterday to tell them the news since they don't live on Twitter. It was weird because I truly believed if I called I would cry, and I'm not a crier.

My grandfather recalled how wonderful he was when they met him at the Atlanta Classic as he got off the helicopter. Great Aunt Louise had her picture made with him, and we all still have said picture. Apparently he got off the helicopter with his briefcase to go to the golf course, which they found funny, because why would anyone need a briefcase to go play golf? It's a picture of my namesake, who I never got to know, with one of my favorite golfers. A mutual love of an athlete that unites two people decades apart in age. That's pretty special.

In 1995 on a brutally hot April day, I went to a Tuesday practice round at Augusta with my grandparents. While 7 year old me was ready to head home, I was informed that we would be staying for the Arnold Palmer ceremony. Wait, the what? It was the 40th anniversary of his first Master's win and they were giving him a plaque on a water fountain on the 16th hole. I suggested that giving him a plaque on a water fountain wasn't a big enough deal, and therefore we should head home. But it didn't matter, if it had to do with Arnold, we were staying. Adults know best, so there we stayed to watch in the blazing sun.

On that hot April day I could pretty much tell you the general back stories of "the Big 3," but Arnold was our favorite. We were an Arnold family. Yes, the Golden Bear and Gary Player were lovely, but Arnold was king. Every night at dinner someone would be drinking out of a Master's Champions glass that lists every winner. My parents would quiz me, and I loved it. 1958, 1960, 1962, and 1964 were "gimme" years. I didn't like when they would ask for Arnold years, because everyone knew those, or I believed that they should.

My freshman year of college I was given an extra day of badges for Thursday. I drove from Tuscaloosa at 3am so my boyfriend could see the ceremonial tee shot. I insisted. He had never been and seeing the Big 3 should be on everyone's bucket list. It was just as magical as it always was, all three of them paling around with one another. So this past year when they announced that Arnold wouldn't be hitting the ceremonial tee shot, I cried. It just didn't feel right.

When I think about Arnold Palmer, I think about the guy who stops mid-round as he's walking down 15 at Augusta to ask one of the CBS cameramen about their family. How when he would walk past he would give you that famous thumbs up and wink that you would swear was just for you. How he opened his own children's hospital and has saved countless lives of little ones. The story of how he yelled "FORE" at the top of 17 during his last competitive round to a group who was putting down below before he even hit a tee shot. Because it was just something he had always wanted to do, he said with a chuckle. And his advice to all young players on the tour: Sign your name legibly so that they can read it. Take the time to recognize that they're here to see you, and give them an autograph that they can read.

There are no words that can accurately do justice to what Arnold Palmer meant to the world of golf, and there will never be another like him. Arnold, thank you for all of the Thursday morning tee shots. For the bond you created for a set of grandparents with their granddaughter. For the picture with my great Aunt Lou, which I treasure. For creating my love for the game of golf and everything it encompasses. But most importantly, thank you for being an example. Every athlete, every person should strive to emulate your character and the way you treated others, because at the end of the day that's all that really matters.

Written by
Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021. One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines. Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide. Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports. Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.