A Few Moments With Mr. Palmer

March 27, 2008

By Rand Jerris, USGA

Far Hills, N.J. - We're opening the doors to the new Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History in just a couple short months. It's been three years of intense work, with a tremendous effort put forth by every individual on the project team. We'll soon have a state-of-the-art facility that will allow us to better care for the USGA's impressive collections of historical memorabilia. We'll also have a new research center, new storage areas, and new exhibition galleries where we will display hundreds of artifacts that have never before been shared with our visitors.

But for me, the most significant aspect of this project is the opportunity it provides to honor one of the game's truly outstanding gentlemen. For more than 50 years, since he won his first USGA national championship at the Country Club of Detroit in the 1954 U.S. Amateur, Arnold Palmer has been a friend to the USGA. He's the only individual to serve as National Chairman of our Members program. And for more than 30 years he's supported our efforts as a trusted member of the USGA Museum Committee.

I'll never forget the first time I met Mr. Palmer. It was during the 1990 U.S. Senior Open in Ridgewood, N.J. A new portrait of Mr. Palmer had been created, and I was fortunate to receive an invitation to attend the unveiling. A sizeable group had gathered to celebrate the occasion - USGA dignitaries, club officials, friends of Mr. Palmer - and me, a college student working that summer as an intern in the Museum.

At some point during the latter half of the gathering, Mr. Palmer noticed me standing quietly off in the corner, where I had stationed myself simply to observe. He concluded his present conversation, strode over, extended his hand, and introduced himself. I was floored, to say the least. We spent the next 10 minutes chatting - not about golf, not about his career, but about me. He wanted to know who I was, what I did for the USGA, where I went to school.

Arnold Palmer is my father's hero. As I was growing up and learning to play the game, my dad spoke of him often, always with great admiration and always with reverence. And now I understood why. With so many prominent people present, Mr. Palmer took the time to make me feel welcome and important. I've been with the USGA now for close to 20 years. And I've since had numerous opportunities to spend time in his company. But that first encounter remains the most memorable.

But the fact of the matter is this - that the longer I am involved with the game, the more I have learned that my experience is by no means unique. So many people I encounter have similar stories to tell of a man who is so generous with his time and goodwill. Yes, Mr. Palmer is one of the greatest ever to have played the game. But his gift to golf extends far beyond his accomplishments on the course. Far more important, it is his character - the grace, dignity, warmth, and respect that he shows and shares with everyone he encounters.

And so I'm proud to be a part of a project that honors and celebrates such an extraordinary person. When Mr. Palmer comes to Far Hills on June 3 to help us open our new museum, I hope that he will feel the gratitude and warmth that we, his fans, have always felt for him.

Dr.RandJerrisis the Director of theUSGAMuseum. For questions or comments, e-mail him at rjerris@usga.org.


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