just give it all back
go home, then you don’t have to
do that anymore
Right from the beginning, Palmer got celebrity — he understood it and embraced it.
When Curtis Strange — who always bridled at being a public figure — became the No. 1 player in the world in the 1980s, he complained to Palmer, who had been close to Strange’s father, about the responsibilities that came with stardom: signing autographs, dealing with the media, spending time with sponsors.
Palmer shrugged and said, “You don’t have to do any of that if you don’t want to.”
Strange was stunned. “I don’t?” he said.
“How do I not do any of that?”
“Go home,” Palmer answered.
“Don’t get paid to play golf for a living.
Don’t take money from sponsors.
Don’t get paid to wear a shirt or a hat or play with a certain kind of golf club or golf ball.
Just give all that back and go home.
Then you don’t have to do any of that anymore.”
Adapted from The Classic Palmer by John Feinstein (Stewart, Tabori and Chang (April 1, 2012).
I am not a golfer.
I am more of public danger on a golf course than a participant.
My Dad took me along to a driving range when I was in High School and showed me the basics of the grip and swing and such and then had me take a swing at a ball.
I put my head done, having read once, in an article by Alistair Cooke, how Jack Nicolaus’ Coach would stand behind Nicolaus and hold his head for hours so he would keep looking down when he swung, and I swung as hard as I could at the ball.
I followed through with my swing, hit the ball, and kept my head down.
Then I brought my arms down and noticed something.
The club was missing.
Using the golf club grip with my left thumb inside my right fist, I managed, without noticing, to let the club slip through my hands and fly up and away somewhere.
I turned to my Dad and held out my hands.
Look Dad, No Club!
He looked at me.
I looked at him.
We both tried to hunker down and look up at the same time.
The club came down to earth about 10 yards away on the concrete sidewalk with a whanga whanga whanga that attracted a lot of attention.
I haven’t picked up a club since.
But I have always been aware of golf.
Even before cable TV, golf was on TV a lot.
Growing up when I did, I would have watched algebra on TV if it was the only thing on so in the spring before baseball season started, if you were going to watch Sunday afternoon TV, you watched golf.
It was the only thing on.
It is an interesting historical aspect of televised Golf that it got terrible ratings.
Except among one group.
And that one group being those people in sales who bought TV advertising time.
Those people loved golf.
Playing golf made them happy and expansive.
Watching golf made them happy and expansive.
TV Stations were happy to make them happy.
So TV Sales people played a lot of golf.
And TV networks broadcast a lot of golf.
And we watched a lot of golf.
And the names of the golfers became familiar to us as household items.
And no name more familiar than Arnold Palmer.
The other night I was thinking about a passage of writing by the author, John Feinstein.
I enjoy Mr. Feinstein’s writing.
He found a formula that works and does a good job making it work.
His first book, A Season on the Brink, is an inside look at the Indiana University basketball team and Coach Bobby Knight during the 1985-86 season.
I love this book.
In 1985, my team, Michigan, had a pretty good team that won the Big Ten and Mr. Feinstein goes into detail on the two games between Michigan and Indiana.
Michigan won both games.
Michigan winning at Indiana is fairly rare in my lifetime.
Michigan blew Indiana out of Crisler Arena 80-52 to win the Big Ten in the final game of the season.
Both games are wonderfully described in Mr. Feinstein’s book.
But I digress.
As I said, I was looking for another Feinstein book when I came across his book, The Classic Palmer.
I really enjoyed Mr. Feinstein’s book on golf.
“A Long Walk Ruined.”
So I took a chance on the Classic Palmer.
It isn’t a long book.
Took me about 30 minutes to read.
And I came away with the feeling that Arnold Palmer was a good guy who happened to be good at golf, really good, and he let his ability take him where it would and enjoyed the ride.
I remembered a conversation about football I had once, that it was a game that used to be played by guys who were athletic enough to play football.
Now it is like we have football players, who through specialized training, medical prowess and determination, also happen to be guys.
I mean when I read the book Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile by Nate Jackson and Mr. Jackson described how he had to give some blood so a specialized super glue could be created just for him that would be kept frozen until he needed a muscle glued back together in way that that his body wouldn’t reject, well sir …
AGAIN I digress.
Back to Mr. Palmer, I came across the passage quoted above.
I read it a couple of times.
I thought of soooooooooooo many notables in today’s news cycle.
The whiny moaning.
About being a celebrity.
Just give it all back.
Then you won’t have anything to whine and moan about.
On the other hand, this clearly is the case between fame and celebrity.
Most golfers are just that.
People who are celebrated.
And celebrations come to end.
Mr. Palmer was famous.
Fame has a way of sticking around.
You can’t go out to eat and order a Tiger Woods, a Kardashian or even a Trump now can you?