Tag Archives: Arnold Palmer

Hail to the King!

29 Mar

A Palmer Pilgrimage to Wake Forest last fall

I am celebrating The King from this month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational to next month’s Masters and beyond. Palmer, the global sports icon and my fellow Wake Forest Demon Deacon, passed away last fall at the age of 87. The new golf season reminds us that old traditions will be quite different this year without golf’s greatest ambassador.

  • “Can he play golf?”

The Wake Forest Athletics Director uttered this in 1947 when a Deacon recruit was encouraging him to offer another scholarship to a fresh-faced 18-year-old from Latrobe, Pa. That recruit would take Wake’s golf team and then a whole sport to a new level.

  • “This man was my favorite person. Not my favorite golfer, but my favorite person that I ever met.”

Country music singer and golfing enthusiast Vince Gill said this about the King. I don’t bite on too many marketing campaigns, but Mastercard aced it with #ArnieWould: Arnie would stop and sign every autograph, Arnie would found two hospitals for women and children, Arnie would become only the sixth athlete ever to be honored with the Congressional Gold Medal…

  • “How he impacts other people is more important than any golf championship.”

A former patient at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies named her son Palmer after surviving a harrowing pregnancy thanks in large part to the Orlando hospital staff. The family was surprised, to say the least, when later little Palmer received a thankful letter from his legendary namesake. Arnie had the common touch, but was still bigger than life to many folks. More importantly, he believed in something bigger than self.

 

Source: Wake Forest magazine, NBC Sports

Once More With Feeling

21 Nov

“I was telling people that you were going to die, Willy.”

It wasn’t exactly your normal breakfast talk. A physician fraternity brother offered this up during a trip to the ol’ alma mater earlier this month. The hustle and bustle of the diner, omelettes and orange juice, and his four kids stuffed into a booth with four adults offered quite a contrast to the weighty message.

Willy, my “little brother” from our fraternity days two decades past, is two years removed from a brutal bout with something called necrotizing pancreatitis. “This is a disease where your pancreas ‘eats’ itself which, in turn, affects the kidney, liver and various digestive processes,” he wrote shortly after his release from the hospital in November 2014. “The [South Dakota] hospital decided to fly me to Asheville to be closer to my mom because they were not sure that I would live through the summer. I went through 13 surgeries, dialysis and had a bout of psychosis where I saw things. I am now a Type 1 diabetic, I can’t walk well, and I have five tubes coming out of my lung, abdomen, and stomach. However, I am dealing with it all.”

Dealing with it all, he wrote so simply. Willy’s gentle, understated tone ran through my head and ran up against the horrifying reality of a struggle most of us can’t even begin to imagine…

Struggle was nowhere near my thoughts the rest of that gorgeous fall Saturday as he and I strolled around the sun-splashed Wake Forest campus, stopping at the chapel, the bookstore and the statue of Arnold Palmer, our fellow Demon Deacon and global golfing legend who passed away just weeks before.

Later that afternoon, before the football game between two of Willy’s alma maters — he’d gotten a degree from visiting Virginia as well — we checked out Wake’s Sports Hall of Fame, got some greasy grub from a favorite college dive and soaked up the tailgating energy.

When I drew blood handling a beer with a faulty bottle opener, Willy was giving himself an insulin shot. When the football contest was too close for comfort, I was stressed. Willy was less.

There I was thinking in my routine, short-term way: successful work week, enjoyable weekend, good trip… good game.

And there was Willy: “Relearning what it means to have a life is such a blessing.”