Thursday, December 1, 2016


Arnie's Army, Blue Hills CC, MO

That’s Life was a big hit for Frank Sinatra in the sixties. Its brash lyrics suited his style well:

“I said that’s life and as funny as it may seem,
Some people get their kicks
Stompin’ on a dream.
But I don’t let it , let it get me down,
‘Cause this fine old world it keeps spinnin’ around.

I’ve been up and down and over and out,
And I know one thing.
Each time I find myself layin’ flat on my face,
I just pick myself up and get back in the race.”

This could have been the theme song for Arnold Palmer’s life as well. Life isn’t so much about how many times you’ve been knocked down as about how many times you get back up! In his last book, A Life Well Played, Arnold writes that “I suppose the honest truth is that my playing style probably caused me to lose as many majors as I won. But putting the control of a tournament into someone else’s hands and not taking the action of being in control of the situation is much more of a gamble to me. I would rather risk losing any day than lay up and hope for the best. You either go for the cup or you crawl to it…Even when the game gets frustrating, there is absolutely no reason not to remain positive. Because the things we get to do, the opportunities that we have, are tremendous. They are the stuff of our dreams.”

These thoughts took me back to a moment in time thirty years after Sinatra recorded That’s Life. I had taken a Friday vacation day to drive outside Winston-Salem to the Vantage Seniors Tournament where my sole intent was to join Arnie’s Army one last time. Arnie was nearing the twilight of his competitive golfing years and I wanted to just walk the course with him outside the ropes and take in the experience. After walking the front nine it was apparent that one of the young ladies in the small army was Arnie’s daughter who he took time to talk with between holes.

The small army dwindled to just a few of us as we neared the end of the round. But Arnie’s presence spoke volumes about his passion for the game and his desire to promote it. I know he was aware that I was one of the few along with his daughter that continued to follow him in spite of the fact that he was well out of contention. Arnie had lined up a right to left breaking putt of considerable length and he gave it a charge. The putt had just a little too much speed and passed over the cup on the “pro side”. There was still a spark of competitiveness in his reaction to the miss as he looked up into my view. I instinctively reacted by shrugging my shoulders and pursing my lips in a “That’s Life” gesture. Surprisingly, Arnie made eye contact and returned the same response. He gave that putt his best shot and there was no looking back. His legacy was already secure. And that’s an uncompromised life well lived.

(And I was in a much better position to relate to a missed putt than if Arnie had made it!)

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