Arnie and Me

Being a former Long Drive Champion affords me the ability to brag about prodigious drives and it’s not a fish story, but how far I used to be able to hit a ball is not what this story is about. This is a story about how The King created a pair of lasting moments in the life of a fairly unknown golfer and showed what kind of person he is.

The year is 1995. I had moved on from Long Drive and was attempting to make The PGA Tour. I was in the middle of my best golf having had a few brushes with success that would have propelled me to The Tour. I was on the range at Indian Wells the week of The Bob Hope Classic, testing drivers from the Cleveland Tour van, as I had just signed an endorsement deal with them. The tour rep (who has also since passed on) was handing me different specs and it was fun…I had a PGA Tour range all to myself. I was feeling pretty good about myself and remember thinking, “How does it get any better than this?”

Get me an Old Milwaukee.

The range at Indian Wells was straight uphill and there was a rock at the top, then a wall of bushes, then the mountain. Only the longest hitters could get near the rock in the day of small steel heads and balata golf balls. It was rumored that John Daly had flown the rock and hit balls into the bush line.

As I am hitting balls, I sensed someone had walked up as I was about to hit. I hit a nice ball just over the rock into the bush line.

“Haven’t seen anyone do that in 40 years of coming here.”

I recognized the voice and it was Arnold Palmer himself. The Cleveland Rep introduced me and I was obviously thrilled. After a few short pleasantries, The King asked me to hit some more balls. Imagine the thrill, The King was impressed by me and wanted to watch me do more. I hit a few more of the same, then he said, “Can you hit it out of the range, it doesn’t look like you are swinging that hard.”

I said I could and hit the next one over the bushes. Don (The Cleveland rep) then said, “OK Monte, really hit one!”

“Really hit one?” says The King.

“Watch this!” says Don.

I gave it all I had and with some obvious adrenaline pumping for who my audience was, I hit one that was likely one of the 5 longest balls I have ever hit. The ball flew well over the rock and the bush line and landed in the rocks well up the mountain considerably out of the range.

“Holy Shit, the rest of the golf world better hope you can’t putt!!!!!”

I thanked him for taking time to humor me and inflate my ego, he laughed and told me how fun it was to watch.

Fast forward 6-7 years. I was caddying for a good friend in a Champions Tour event and who does he get paired with?

THE KING

I had no intent of troubling him with our prior meeting, as I am sure that although that was the highlight of my career as a golfer, for him it likely ranked three rungs below a missed 4 footer on 16 during the 1958 Zipper Open.

We are on the first tee and as he’s folding his pin sheet and putting it in his yardage book, he walks over to the bags to introduce himself to me the other caddie in the group. He looks up at me and there is a sign of recognition. He ponders for a split second and says, “I saw you hit one over the mountain at Indian Wells!”

He then does a 30 second recap for those on the tee and the several dozen fans surrounding the tee.

I don’t get teary eyed about many things, but when the world loses a man who was that renowned and gave a crap about me enough to remember…that was enough for me to get a huge lump in my throat and well up when I read the news.

People show reverence to Ben Hogan by calling him Mr. Hogan. The man we lost yesterday created so much reverence, he allowed us all to call him Arnie.

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24 Comments

  1. Mark Solak

    Great story, thanks for sharing. Now you know how some of your students feel about what a class guy you are for all you do for them.

    Reply
  2. Jim

    Great story Monte. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Paul b

      Great anecdote..you have a lot of fans rooting for you Monte

      Reply
  3. ROGER HUSTON

    Well stated and what a gentle man.

    Reply
  4. Tom

    I remember this story from your clinic. Even better now under the circumstances. Can only imagine how exciting that was. RIP Arnie…

    Reply
  5. Keith

    How brilliant that must of been Monte,what a memory to have

    Reply
  6. David

    The amazing thing is you were one of many. Brought a lump and tear. Thank you for sharing your Arnold story.

    Reply
  7. marvin cantos

    Very, Very cool story…We lost a very good man in Arnold Palmer.

    Reply
  8. Joe

    Great story. Thanks Monte.

    Reply
  9. Jeff

    Awesome tribute

    Reply
  10. Frank

    Really touching story, Monte. Heartfelt. Thank you.

    Reply
  11. Hai Dau

    Nice memories of the King Monte!

    Reply
  12. Joe

    Excellent Story Monte. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Reply
  13. Vincent Treola Jr.

    very cool, he will be missed

    Reply
  14. Ray

    Thanks so much for this, Monte. I can’t believe he is gone. He seemed touched by something beyond this world, a greatness beyond time. But it got expressed in the most human terms, always, and we have your wonderful story as the perfect example. I’m not sure we will ever see the likes of him again, but he lives forever in memories like this!

    Reply
  15. Stan Thomas

    Thanks for sharing Monte……….if a persons loves life and people the way Arnie did, it’ll be a great ride

    Reply
  16. Brenden Gee

    Jesus, Monte. Great story. And a great man that we lost.

    Reply
  17. RP Jacobs II

    Ben Hogan couldn’t hold Mr. Palmer’s bag on his best day….

    Nice story Bro!!

    Fairways Greens & Mountain Rocks 4ever,
    RP

    Reply
  18. Andrew Moline

    Love this story! Crazy to think how one can be so saddened by the loss of someone never known personally, but I still find myself reading various stories and quotes from Arnold Palmer that I get a bit choked up. How cool that you have one of those stories yourself, Monte.

    Reply
  19. Joe

    Great story, thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  20. John

    Great story.reminds me of Sevvy when a spectator. Remarked, Sevvy my birthday is the same day as yours.( how old are you sir? 60,replies fan. (No sir my birthday is the same as yours) Class, Rip Arnold.

    Reply
  21. jack ladesic

    Monty,
    What a wonderful tribute to Arnie. Born & raised in the Pittsburgh area so I know whereof you speak. Belonged to Latrobe CC back in the day & had contact with AP on numerous occasions. There will never be another like him. You nailed it!

    Reply
  22. BT

    That’s absolutely AWESOME!

    He will be soooo missed.

    Reply
  23. James Washer

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve never met you or Arnie and the story made me tear up a little and laugh a lot.

    Reply

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