As a twenty year-old in 2001 I was invited to my first of now three Masters. You might imagine a youngster like myself was going to spend the entire time following Tiger Woods and hanging on his every stroke in his march to golf history - the Tiger Slam. When we reached the grounds, received our pairings list, purchased our chairs and placed them on the 15th green, I felt compelled to stray away from the Woods grouping. Not because I wanted to stray from what Tiger was doing or didn't want to fight the crowds, but because the Big 3 were grouped - Jack, Gary, and of course Arnie. A sense of history suggested I might never see anything like this again. Of course it was an experience I'll never forget. The banter with the galleries, the adulation, and of course I just know Arnie looked at me and gave me that trademark thumbs up. I always respected Arnold Palmer, but at that moment I was enlisted in his Army.
Fast forward to 2014. I've been lucky to establish a good working relationship and friendship with the Managing Director of the division of my firm. Himself a collegiate golfer at Maryland and a proper steward of the game of golf. He had recently played Augusta and mentioned to me the only thing he regretted was not buying a flag. So I searched the internet over for a legitimate source to make that happen for him, and helped make sure he got that flag. He asked me how many times I had attended The Masters and had I bought flags for each appearance - I had. I told him my story about Arnold giving me a thumbs up. He smiled and said I should mail my flag from 2001 and a letter telling that story to Mr. Palmer. Confused I asked, "do you mean to have him sign it?" I knew Arnold signed EVERYTHING at tournaments, but to impose upon his personal time felt weird, wrong. My Managing Director insisted it wasn't an imposition.
I sat down a few nights later and wrote a letter. Not at my computer. I say at my dining table and constructed a hand written letter about how I detoured from Tiger Woods to witness three legends and walked away feeling I'd gained a friend. Less than 10 days after sending that letter and my 2001 Masters flag it returned with the carefully signed autograph of Mr. Arnold Palmer. Today it hangs framed on my wall and will never receive another signature, not even Tiger Woods who ultimately won that tournament and did something no one else has ever done.
That's how I became a member of Arnie's Army.