By Scott Kauffman
In my 30 years as a professional journalist, the majority of which was spent as a sport reporter, I've had the pleasure of meeting some of the most famous athletes and people. Every so often, people would ask me who were my favorite interviews? And Arnold Palmer was, and will always remain, at the top of my list. Why? Because his genuine nature and personable and gracious hospitality always made you feel good.
And this was a legend or superstar giving you his time mind you.
I had the pleasure to first meet Mr. Palmer after becoming a sports reporter for the Orlando Sentinel and helping cover the PGA Tour's annual Bay Hill Classic (now called the Arnold Palmer Invitational), hosted by Palmer at his longtime winter home in Orlando. I later got to know Palmer's golf presence from a different perspective after moving over to Golfweek as a Business Writer.
It was during this time that I had the highlight of my journalism career, when I broke the worldwide story that the Japanese were selling fabled Pebble Beach for $820 million to a group led by Arnold Palmer, Clint Eastwood, Peter Ueberroth and Richard Ferris. The story, which was picked up by every news outlet around the globe, resulted in me being interviewed by CNN’s Lou Dobbs during his nightly Moneyline show.
And all of this happened because of Palmer's always welcoming disposition one evening in the locker room at Bay Hill. After weeks of in-depth reporting pointing to this Pebble Beach takeover, it was a brief encounter with Palmer that finally confirmed my big story.
When asked if he was part of this group planning to buy Pebble Beach, all it took to confirm my reporting was a nod from Mr. Palmer and his trademark smile and twinkle in his eye.
In recent months, I was hoping to reconnect with the people's King about a new story I was developing but I recognized his health was failing so I decided to not bother the legend. Interestingly, the story - to be published in Rosen Reveal magazine later this year - was about a newly designed Arnold Palmer signature course for another Orlando icon, hotelier Harris Rosen's Shingle Creek Resort.
Of course, Palmer's design firm has created more than 250 courses around the world, but Shingle Creek is quite special in that it represents a number of unique connections to Palmer. For instance, Shingle Creek's longtime Director of Golf Dave Scott came from Bay Hill and Arnold Palmer Golf Academies co-founder Brad Brewer started his namesake golf academy at Shingle Creek.
Not to mention Shingle Creek's original course was designed by the late Dave Harmon, who got his start building courses for Palmer, whose longtime Orlando home is just 15 minutes away at Bay Hill. So fittingly, Shingle Creek might represent the final course ever to be designed and built under the King's watch.
For a man who has touched millions of lives, these are just two personal connections I have of Palmer and his Golf Kingdom. Two memories I will cherish forever.