Apr 9th, 2018

The Masters, Arnold Palmer and Flying

Posted in Aviation News

My favorite golf tournament in the world is the Masters.  It is played on what I (and many) consider the most beautiful golf course in the world.  The man who, in many ways, made the Masters was Arnold Palmer.  Arnold has a huge connection to flying.

The Masters is played at Augusta National Country Club in Augusta Georgia. It is played each Spring in early April as the Azalea’s and Dogwoods bloom – an annual rite of spring.  I guess that it is no surprise that the foliage is so beautiful, Augusta National was built on a 350 acre nursery (www.Masters.com).

Jack Nicklaus, widely regarded as the greatest golfer to ever live, made an interesting observation on CBS television over the weekend. The Masters made Arnold Palmer and Arnold Palmer made the Masters.  What does that mean?  Television first televised the Masters in 1958, coinciding with the arrival of a young, dashing golfer from Latrobe Pennsylvania named Arnold Palmer.  Palmer was fresh out of the Coast Guard.  He had Hollywood good looks, charm and charisma in spades.  He cut quite a figure in his cardigan and could play golf, with flair, like no one else at the time.

Palmer won the Masters in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964, sometimes in dramatic fashion.  Once getting birdy’s on the final two holes for the win.  With a great grin and a kiss of his wife Winnie Arnold wore the green jacket, emblematic of winning the Masters.

So what does this have to do with flying?  Arnold Palmer once had a fear of flying.  It emanated from a lighting strike of a DC-3 upon which he was flying.  As the plane descended through a thunderstorm the lightning entered the cabin and bounded around inside.  Palmer decided to overcome the fear by becoming a pilot himself.

The other advantage of flying was that it saved he and Winnie time in getting back in forth to tournaments.  They started out driving to tournaments with a trailer in tow.  Once he began winning, earning money, and kids came along he decided to fly.  He began flying in a Cessna 172.  He later owned his first plane when he purchased an Aero Commander and then went on to buy several other planes, including Learjet’s and several Cessna Citations.  His favorite seems to have been the Cessna Citation X, a plane he once called, ‘the most beautiful” he had ever seen.

Arnold passed from this earth on September 26, 2016.  I found several fascinating articles showing the clear connection between Arnold Palmer and aviation.  A story on his last flight as pilot in command (https://www.flyingmag.com/blogs/fly-wire/capt-arnies-final-flight).  A website summarizing his flying career (https://disciplesofflight.com/golf-legend-pilot-arnold-palmer-dies/) and finally a section of his personal website dedicated to flight (http://www.arnoldpalmer.com/aviation)

I leave you with a memorable flight quote from Arnie as we finish the Masters this year:  “To put it quite simply, I could never have accomplished even half as much as I have in my golf and business careers over the last four decades without having my own airplanes.”



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