The great Arnold Palmer turned 85 this week. We take a moment to reflect on The King’s grand legacy at The Cradle of American Golf
BY LEE PACE
Doris Palmer was fraught with anxiety. It was the 1954 U.S. Amateur at the Country Club of Detroit, and her 25-year-old-son, Arnold, was about to make a serious mistake. She approached Richard Tufts, the president of Pinehurst Inc. and USGA secretary, with her concerns.
“Oh, Mr. Tufts, I’m worried to death,” Mrs. Palmer said. “I’m afraid Arnold’s going to turn pro after this.”
“With that swing of his, he’ll never make it on tour.” Richard Tufts
Tufts’ primary frame of reference for young Palmer’s golf ability was the North and South Amateur, the tournament the Tufts family ran each spring on Pinehurst No. 2. Palmer never played particularly well in that event, losing by a monster score like 12-and-11 to Frank Stranahan in 1949.
“I’m sorry to hear that, Mrs. Palmer,” Tufts replied. “With that swing of his, he’ll never make it on tour.”
Palmer won the Amateur that week, did in fact turn professional and proceeded to make hash of his critics. Palmer and Tufts were reunited 14 years later in Charlotte, when Palmer spoke on Tufts’ behalf at the latter’s induction ceremony into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. They shared a laugh over Tufts’ gaffe.