The 19th Hole

Arnold Palmer arrived at Martin’s West bearing the same smile that made him a transcendent sports icon for more than 50 years.  In Baltimore to help raise money for Special Olympics of Maryland, Mr. Palmer gave the more than 15-hundred in attendance the show for which they hoped.

First he dove in with the meet and greet with pictures, complete with one liners when appropriate (and occasionally not.)

Then the conversation with the face of CBS Sports Jim Nantz.

They’ve done this on many occasions and the Voice of the Masters knows exactly what buttons to push for Arnie to deliver.  Their routine, while clearly practiced, remained genuine because they truly share admiration.

The setting may not have proved intimate.  You can’t have a fireside chat in a room that could double for Arena Football. But it did feel like we were eavesdropping a little.  They shared their memories of glories past, desires for the game of golf in the future, and the stories.  Stories of having dinner with the Queen of England.  Of the surprise 37th birthday party in which President Eisenhower showed up on Palmer’s doorstep.

The best moments though came when the Special Olympians interacted with Palmer and Nantz.  Their unbridled, unfiltered joy at meeting larger than life figures truly hit home. And when you get a hug from a Special Olympian , you’d have to be a robot not to grin ear to ear.

No broadcaster more smoothly operates a room than Jim Nantz, but even he appeared moved from the multiple interactions with the athletes.

This was the first of what will become an annual SOMD fund raiser in this fashion.  No doubt they will find other fascinating people for the program, but meeting the standard set last night will take a very special effort indeed.


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