My story of when I met Arnold Palmer-
It was in June of 1992 when Dr. James Bryan invited me to play golf at Latrobe Country Club where he was a member.
Jim was an avid golfer and had just taken over the dental care of Arnold Palmer when Arnie's best friend(and dentist), Dr. Howdy Giles retired. As many Arnie fans know, Howdy wrote a book dedicated to his close friendship with Arnie titled "The King and I." (If you're reading this story and don't have a copy of the book, get one!).
At the time, I was in the middle of producing 4 paintings for Jack Nicklaus and his ABC Sports television special "The 18 Most Difficult Holes in Major Championship Golf."
On the drive over to Latrobe from my home in Canton, it was a beautiful sunny day - just perfect for a round of golf.
I picked up Jim at his dental office in downtown Latrobe and as we're driving over to the club, Jim informs me that we're HAVING LUNCH WITH THE KING! - and Howdy Giles before we tee off!!!!
At that point, my heart started racing and I was so excited I could hardly breathe! But knowing Howdy was going to be there made me feel at ease because I had met Howdy several years earlier at the Masters and we had become fast friends.
When we got to Arnie's office - I was taken aback on how this modest, quaint little home was the headquarters for such a great business man and world famous golfer!
However, it was beautiful - and impressive at the same time - tucked into a lovely hillside right across from the club - it had white painted siding with green shutters and the world famous Arnold Palmer umbrella logo above the door - in many ways, it reminded me of the member's cabins at Augusta National Golf Club.
As Jim and I pulled into the driveway, Arnie and Howdy were walking to their car and heading over to lunch.
Howdy said hi to me - but I didn't get to meet Arnie right then and there because they were getting in the car - and we were late!
However, as Arnie was about to get in the car, he stopped, looked straight at me - and then turned his attention to my brand new, forest green Ford Explorer - then, without hesitation, turned around and got in the car without saying anything!
I wondered what was the King thinking, "...what's this young kid doing with such a nice car??" (Well, it was because of you Arnie that I was able to afford such a nice ride and I'll always thank the King for making it possible for an artist like me to make a living painting golf!).
Jim walked over to the car window and told Arnie he wanted to show me the office and we would meet them for lunch in a few minutes.
Well, lunch with Arnie never happened because when you walk into Arnold Palmer's office in Latrobe, you enter a treasure trove worthy of ANY museum!
There were hundreds of photographs of Arnie with celebrities, kIngs, queens, gold statues, paintings, letters from President(s) of the United States, and the golf clubs - there were thousands of beautiful persimmon drivers, forged irons, putters - it was overwhelming how much Arnie had in that little house/office!!
Well, we took way too much time looking at everything - I guess it was my fault - but it's like the National Treasure movie Book of Secrets where Ben Gates is leafing through the Book of Secrets and Riley wants him to stop and look at Area 51 and the Kennedy Assassination and they don't have enough time!
Jim, at one point said, "Mike we gotta go," so we left the office, crossed the road to the club, and as we walked into the men's grill, Arnie was sitting with Howdy and a couple of other members and said in that distinctive, manly, gravel laden voice of his, "Where the hell have you been???!!!" (They were half way through with lunch).
I started to stammer something and then Jim interrupted me and said, "Sorry Arnie, Mike just loved looking at all of the things you have collected over the years and time just got away from us."
At this point, I could feel a few drops of sweat forming on my forehead as the King was staring right at me...when Howdy tried to break the ice with a question,
"Hey Michael, what are you working on now?"
I'm thinking, "Oh no, I'm working on the Nicklaus paintings!!!"
More sweat started to form on my forehead!
I had to answer Howdy's question so fearing the worst, I eked out in a timid voice, "I'm working on some paintings for Jack Nicklaus."
There was a long moment of silence...and then Arnie, shouted out, "WHO'S THAT????"
The whole table erupted in laughter and at that point, I relaxed and knew that this great man, this incredibly world famous man, was a great guy and my new friend.
We missed having lunch with the King (something I'll always regret - but we had a good excuse) - so we stood and talked for a few minutes and traded some fun stories - said our goodbyes and then
Jim and I headed out to the 1st tee and had a great round of golf.
I'll never forget that day and I always love telling this story.
Rest in peace Arnie and my deepest sympathies to Arnie's family, Doc Giffin, and to Howdy Giles and his wife Carolyn.