Play­ers say farewell to Arnold Palmer

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Doug Fer­gu­son

With a large tear form­ing in his left eye, Jack Nick­laus asked ev­ery­one from the elite to the ev­ery­man to remember the time Arnold Palmer touched their lives dur­ing an emo­tional farewell to the King.

With a large tear form­ing in his left eye, Jack Nick­laus asked ev­ery­one from the elite to the ev­ery­man to remember the time Arnold Palmer touched their lives dur­ing an emo­tional farewell to the King on Tues­day.

“I hurt like you hurt,” Nick­laus said. “You don’t lose a friend of 60 years and don’t feel an enor­mous loss.”

The ser­vice at Saint Vin­cent Col­lege in Palmer’s home­town was filled with just as much laugh­ter and warmth from sto­ries of the most sig­nif­i­cant player in the modern game. The basil­ica at the col­lege was packed with golf’s big­gest names from around the world.

Char­lie Mechem, the for­mer LPGA com­mis­sioner who be­came one of Palmer’s most trusted ad­vis­ers, re­ferred to them as the “elite bat­tal­ion” of Arnie’s Army.

Palmer died Sept. 25 in Pitts­burgh as he was pre­par­ing for heart surgery. He was 87. His pri­vate fu­neral for fam­ily mem­bers was Thurs­day.

“We were look­ing down at the air strip and the fog just sud­denly lifted,” Ernie Els said Tues­day af­ter land­ing in one of sev­eral pri­vate jets that de­scended on Arnold Palmer Re­gional Air­port. “This is a beau­ti­ful day. We’ve all met dif­fer­ent peo­ple in life. He was a man who didn’t change. It didn’t mat­ter if you cut the grass or you were a pres­i­dent. He was the same with ev­ery­body.”

Palmer’s co-pi­lot, Pete Lus­ter, flew his plane around Saint Vin­cent Col­lege for nearly an hour be­fore the ser­vice, tip­ping the left wing as he zoomed by.

Mechem set a happy tone by point­ing to a large pho­to­graph of Palmer with a grin that made ev­ery­one feel so im­por­tant. He asked the crowd to remember the Palmer who hitched up his pants and gave a thumbs-up.

“There’s an old say­ing that there are no ir­re­place­able peo­ple,” Mechem said, his voice crack­ing to­ward the end of the cer­e­mony. “Who­ever made that line didn’t know Arnold Palmer. There will never be another.”

Palmer won 62 times on the PGA Tour, in­clud­ing seven ma­jor cham­pi­onships.

The ser­vice was another re­minder that Palmer was not the great­est golfer who ever lived, or even the best from his gen­er­a­tion. He just had the great­est in­flu­ence through tele­vi­sion, through mar­ket­ing and mostly through eye con­tact.

PGA Tour Com­mis­sioner Tim Finchem tried to ex­plain Palmer’s pop­u­lar­ity by men­tion­ing his at­tack­ing style of golf, his ap­peal on tele­vi­sion and the way he car­ried him­self.

“He had this other thing,” Finchem said. “It was the in­cred­i­ble abil­ity to make you feel good — not just about him, but about your­self. I was amazed by how peo­ple re­acted to him. He took en­ergy from that and turned right around and gave it back.”

GENE J. PUSKAR — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Golfer Jack Nick­laus leaves a memo­rial ser­vice for golfer Arnold Palmer in the Basil­ica at Saint Vin­cent Col­lege in La­trobe, Pa., Tues­day. Palmer died Sept. 25 at age 87.

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