Character · Ethics · Inspiration · Living

Arnold Palmer: Professionalism and Class

Arnold Palmer with Cigarette

A few years back, I was reading a golf magazine, and one of the articles stated how Arnold Palmer’s autograph is worthless.  The article stated that Arnold took great pride in this.  Over his life, he autographed so many things, free of charge, and essentially flooded the market.  The article contained an address to send something that would most likely be autographed, so I decided to send off a couple of photos to see what would happen.  A month or two later, the two photos I sent came back, signed and personalized, and was able to give one to my dad as a gift.  I was so happy to receive them.

My memories of Arnold Palmer are not from his heyday as an elite golfer.  I was born in 1972, and didn’t really know much about golf or its history.  My knowledge of Arnold was from his Pennzoil commercials, and remember seeing him on TV with his tractor.  I knew he was a golfer, but never really appreciated his effect on the game of golf and its fans.  By the time I knew more about who he was, his winning days were a distant memory.

The Arnold Palmer I know is not just being an elite, winning golfer, but the statesman for the game of golf, and life.  I think his enduring legacy will always be one of professionalism and class.  I never met Arnold, but wished I had the chance.  To meet or speak with celebrities or other famous individuals is often of little interest to me, but there are a few I would love to meet.  Arnold was one, for sure.

Arnold’s treatment of fans and competitors was legendary.  Not shy from schooling someone to how they should conduct themselves, but Arnold walked the walk, and his words carried weight.  He demonstrated how professionals should carry themselves, both on the golf course and in life.  He was gracious in winning, but more importantly, also in defeat.  So many sports figures carry on with trash talk or demeaning others in the attempt to gain competitive advantage, and when they lose, they argue, finger point, or make excuses.  This wasn’t Arnold’s style, nor should it be anyone’s style.  In life and in a professional career, class and professionalism will go a long way.

Arnold’s legacy is captured from earlier this year, when he sent a letter to Wesley Bryan, a golfer on the Tour.  A relatively unknown golfer in the sport, Wesley won a couple of times this past season and was guaranteed a PGA tour card for the 2016/2017 season.  Arnold took the time to send a letter of congratulations.  Did he know Wesley?  Probably not, but Arnold took a few minutes to type up this letter:

“Dear Wesley

Congratulations on your victory in the El Bosque Mexico Championship and the impressive start of your season on the Tour with the two wins.

It has to be nice to know that you have already insured that you will be getting your card for the PGA Tour for next season.

You certainly put on a strong finish Sunday to win the tournament so convincingly,


Arnold Palmer”

A single act of kindness only took a few minutes of Arnold’s time.  I’m sure he was pretty busy and growing more frail over this past year, but still sent a congratulatory letter to Wesley.  Such a simple act will now resonate probably resonate with Wesley’s life.  Winning a couple of golfing events will be a career highlight for him, ut I’m sure Wesley will cherish the letter from Mr. Palmer just as much as winning and gaining his PGA Tour card.

I love my Arnold Palmer autograph, and there are many who have something he signed.  So many autographed hats, pictures, golf balls, etc… signed over his long life will make the monetary value very small.  However, for me, Arnold took a few seconds of his time to sign a couple of photos for me.  Simple and small acts of kindness do add up.  It doesn’t take a grand stage to make a difference.  If more people pattern their behavior on Arnold, and be a bit more kind, professional and classy, their own legacy will be enriched.  Arnold Palmer’s legacy is ensured and will endure.  Rest in peace, Mr. Palmer.  You won some big golf tournaments, but were a champion in life.

One thought on “Arnold Palmer: Professionalism and Class

  1. I can’t think of Arnie as one of the elites of golf but I grew up in a time when professional goffers were not considered superstars or multi-millionaires. A winning purse in the average PGA tournament during the fifties was $25,000, large for the few would played for a living but no where near the big money of today. Arnie brought youth to a game that was considered stodgy and rigid. His play captured the imagination of many of us whose family was not a member of a private golf club. I caddied for the country club three blocks down the street (we lived on the far less exclusive side of the state highway). My golf hero was Arnie. I admired Ben Hogan greatly but Arnie was special. By the way, we always watched the Sunday golf show, the match play on courses all over the country and even in the UK. Brian Nelson, Gene Saracen, Gary Player, and many more would be teamed up and play a round while they filmed it. You missed watching some of the greatest gentleman golfers play. Understand, Arnie was still a gentleman golfer but he brought a sense of excitement to the game. By the way, you might want to watch Glenn Ford play Ben Hogan in the film, The Ben Hogan Story. After his horrific auto accident no one thought Hogan would ever walk without a crutch again. He came back through sheer determination to play in the PGA Open and lose by one stroke in the playoff to Dr Cary Middlecoff. And Tiger Woods complains about his back….

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