Palmer's Historic Visor Lands
At The USGA MuseumDecember 2, 2008
By David Shefter, USGA
Far Hills, N.J. - Anyone who regularly watches golf has likely seen the black-and-white film clip.
Seconds after the putt drops, Arnold Palmer reaches for his visor and flings it skyward like it's the conclusion of a commencement ceremony.
Palmer was, indeed, graduating to a new level of accomplishment that mid-June Saturday in 1960, and his spontaneous celebration is a seminal moment in the game's history. One of the greatest comebacks in U.S. Open Championship lore had just occurred at Cherry Hills Country Club outside of Denver. Palmer, seven shots back entering the final 18 holes, registered a 65 to produce an improbable two-stroke victory for what would be his only U.S. Open title.
|Watch the Video:
Click here to watch a video of this historic U.S. Open moment.
So at the 72nd hole, a jubilant Palmer tossed his headwear into the crowd. The visor landed 6 feet from 11-year-old Skip Manning, the nephew of Cherry Hills club professional Ralph "Rip" Arnold, who had qualified for that year's U.S. Open but missed the 36-hole cut with scores of 84-81. Urged by fellow
adult spectators to grab the visor, Manning crawled under the ropes and snagged a golden piece of memorabilia.
Forty-eight years later that visor has finally landed in the USGA Museum. Following a brief ceremony in Palmer's hometown of Latrobe, Pa., Manning officially donated the visor replete with Palmer's autograph from the '60 Open to the USGA Museum and Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History. The visor will be on display very soon with other artifacts in the Palmer Room at the Museum.
"[USGA officials] told me it's one of the top acquisitions ever," said Manning, now 59 and living in Fort Collins, Colo., where he is semi-retired.
|Arnold Palmer tosses the famous visor into the gallery after winning. (USGA Museum)
David Normoyle, the assistant director of the Museum who accepted the donation in Latrobe, said the acquisition ranks right up there with Bob Jones' Calamity Jane II putter used to win the 1930 "Grand Slam" and Ben Hogan's famous 1-iron from the 1950 U.S. Open.
"For us in the Museum," said Normoyle, "it's part of the celebration of America's national champions."
Right Place, Right Time
The 1960 U.S. Open was memorable for Skip Manning even before the first official strokes were ever made. That week, his father, Fred, was invited by Arnold to play practice rounds with some of the game's legends. One day it was Sam Snead and Lionel Hebert. The next it was George Bayer and Ben Hogan. Eleven-year-old Skip got an up-close-and-personal look at his idols by tagging along as his father's caddie. He even got a chance to chat with these iconic figures.
Once the championship began, Manning sought to find a spot where he could view the most action. Knowing the layout of Cherry Hills like it were his own backyard, Manning picked a location behind the 18th green, where he could see the entire final hole as well as the first and third holes, and portions of holes two and 17.
On that final Saturday - back then the final 36 holes were played on one day - Manning was the first spectator to arrive at the 18th, a long, uphill par 4 that is arguably one of the more challenging finishing holes in championship golf. Like everyone else, he had no idea what kind of history would be made. Palmer shot a third-round 72 and stood seven strokes behind 54-hole leader Mike Souchak. Reigning U.S. Amateur champion Jack Nicklaus, then just 20, and four-time Open champion Hogan, 47, were three shots off the pace and paired together for the final two rounds.
As fate would have it, the past, present and future of golf collided that afternoon at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Palmer, the 30-year-old swashbuckling reigning Masters champion, was in the prime of his career but had yet to win the Open. The aging Hogan was gunning for a record fifth title, and the neophyte Nicklaus was vying to be the first amateur since Johnny Goodman in 1933 to win this championship.
Nobody thought Palmer could mount such a daunting comeback, especially known golf chroniclers Dan Jenkins and Bob Drum. During the lunch break between the third and final rounds, Palmer wondered aloud if a 65 might be enough to win.
"You're too far back," said Drum, Palmer's hometown writer from Pittsburgh.
As a fired-up Palmer walked toward the doorway, Drum shot back, "Go on, boy. Go make your seven or eight birdies and [you will still] shoot 73."
Fueled by the comments, a determined Palmer drove the first green and made a birdie. He chipped in for birdie at the second and posted a first-nine 30.
Meanwhile, third-round leader Souchak, playing behind Palmer, faltered with a 6 at the opening hole en route to a 75.
Nicklaus, who started the final round 12 minutes ahead of Palmer, actually held the lead with nine holes left after making an eagle at the fifth and a birdie at No. 9. Suddenly a phenom from Ohio State was in a position he had never encountered in his fledgling career. A nervous Nicklaus three-putted from 12 feet at the 12th hole and he three-putted again at No. 13.
By this time, Hogan now was challenging for the title. At No. 16, he hit his 34th consecutive green in regulation for the day, but missed a 10-foot birdie putt. Needing only pars on the final two holes, Hogan inexplicably hit his third shot to the par-5 17th hole into the pond fronting the green and made a 6. Flustered by the mistake, Hogan took a triple-bogey 7 at 18, leaving Palmer the opening to snag the title.
From his spot at 18, Manning saw all the drama unfold.
"The atmosphere was electric," said Manning. "I can still remember it."
Palmer didn't succumb to the pressure, making pars at 17 and 18.
At first, Manning was reluctant to go after the tossed visor. His parents had taught him not to break rules, and going under the ropes was a no-no.
The adults around him knew Manning had been at the same location all day with his binoculars. They felt he was entitled to the visor and encouraged him to go after it. So the incredulous youngster went after the prized possession, grabbing it before anyone else.
"I knew instantly how significant the visor was," said Manning, who proceeded to the scoring tent, where Palmer, after signing his winning scorecard, applied his signature with a ball-point pen to the red visor.
Manning always kept the visor in a special place at home, even when he went to the private Robert Lewis Stevenson School in Monterey, Calif., for high school.
"Out of all my treasures, it was the only one my mom didn't throw away," said Manning. "The baseball cards and comic books are all gone. She knew better [not to toss the visor]."
Manning also grew up to be a scratch golfer, playing Pebble Beach three or four times a week while at the boarding school. He later attempted to play the PGA Tour, then settled for a succession of club-pro jobs. And everywhere Manning moved, the visor went with him. Although he tried it on occasionally, Manning never wore it to play.
It wasn't until 12 years ago that he and his wife, Kate, had the visor encased in a frame.
While watching this year's U.S. Open on television, Manning noticed an NBC feature on the new Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History. He had seen the clip of Palmer tossing the visor more times than he could count, but he wasn't aware of the renovation of the USGA's Museum.
For the first time in years, Manning considered donating the visor.
Finding Its Rightful Place
Eleven years ago, Steve Frank, a current member of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship Committee and then a golf course rater for Golf Digest , showed up at Sea Ranch (Calif.) Golf Course with his wife, Joy. As it turned out, Frank played that day with Manning, then the club professional, and the two chatted about various topics. When Frank mentioned he was headed to Cherry Hills, Manning told Frank about the visor and other stories from the 1960 U.S. Open.
Frank departed Sea Ranch and didn't think much about the visor again until the announced opening of the Palmer Center.
"My wife and I wondered aloud if the Museum had the Palmer visor in their collection," said Frank in an e-mail. "I contacted Rand [Jerris, the director of the USGA Museum] and asked if he had the visor. Rand said he had just been talking with someone [Normoyle] about how much the Museum would like to have it. I told him I knew who had it. Rand was very enthusiastic about having me find the person."
|The visor, since autographed by Arnold Palmer, most likely could have fetched a handsome price. (John Mummert/USGA)
So Frank began the search to find Manning, who by then had retired from 20 years of teaching the game and had gotten his amateur status back. Shoulder injuries had forced him away from golf and to other businesses.
Frank tried Sea Ranch and was informed he hadn't been at the club for eight years. He contacted a friend at Spyglass Hill, who faxed Frank a list of PGA pros in the U.S. with the Manning surname. None had Skip as a first name.
By doing a Google search, Frank discovered a Skip Manning had played in the 2005 Colorado Senior Stroke Play Championship. He was affiliated with a course, but a call to the course came up empty. A lady gave Frank another course in Fort Collins where Manning was thought to play occasionally. He was given a phone number, but it was out of service.
Running out of options, Frank contacted Warren Simmons, the former director of the Colorado Golf Association who now resides in Arizona. Simmons called the CGA, which came up with an e-mail address.
Frank found his man. After an initial e-mail and subsequent phone conversation that centered on donating the visor, Manning agreed that its proper home was the USGA Museum.
Through Palmer's longtime personal assistant, Doc Giffin, a meeting was arranged for Sept. 24 in Latrobe, where Frank, Manning, Normoyle and Palmer would be present for a small ceremony.
"Palmer was very happy," said Normoyle. "It literally fell into our lap."
That day, Palmer was set to play a round at Latrobe C.C. with Donald Trump and a Fortune 500 individual who had bid for a round of golf with the two celebrities in a charity auction. When the wealthy businessman found out about the visor donation during lunch that day, he couldn't thank Manning enough for his benevolence.
"Someone told me, 'You gave away a fortune,'" said Manning, knowing the visor's net worth on the open market could fetch, well, a King's ransom. "It would just make the whole golfing experience be awful to me. I just hope a whole bunch of people feel that way.
"You look on TV and every week you see a picture of him throwing that visor. It's still [big] 48 years later. I knew this visor â€¦ might as well be where everyone can see it. I'm sure for a lot of people it will complete the story for them." DavidShefteris a USGA Digital Media staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org .