Memories of Palmer at local golf club
The sports world was saddened to learn the death of golfing legend Arnold Palmer, who died Sunday evening.
Palmer was well known to many Chester County golfers for his participation in the early years of the PGA Senior Tour at Chester Valley Golf Club in Malvern.
The tournament, originally United Hospitals Senior Golf Championship and then the Bell Atlantic, was held at Chester Valley from 1985 through 1997.
“It’s such an emotional day,” said Mary Ann Saleski, tournament director for all 13 years it was held at the Chester Valley. “He was the best, such a great Pennsylvanian. It was an amazing time for golf at Chester Valley.
It was the first year he was eligible (turning 50) and it was our first year holding the event.”
Saleski said Palmer and his first wife, Winnie, were anxious to help with philanthropic efforts.
Once Palmer committed to the event, Saleski said, other players followed.
“He was a proud Pennsylvanian and was doing it for his home state,” she said.
Longtime Chester Valley member, Wayne LeSage, who is researching the history of the tournament at Chester Valley, said Palmer played the course eight times - 1985, ’86, ’87, ’89 and ’90. In 1991 the event was held at White Manor while Chester Valley was being refurbished, and Palmer returned in 1992, 1993, and 1994.
Palmer’s best finish was a tie for third in 1985.
In the May 20, 1985 issues of the Daily Local News, it was reported Palmer finished in a tie for third with Miller Barber at 141, one stroke over par. Don January won the $30,000 first prize with Al Balding in second.
“He was really close in 1992, he shot 69’s on the first two days, then had a terrible Sunday. After that he was getting older,” LeSage recalled Monday. “He did so much for the game. He loved the course, the fact that he came eight times to the same course was pretty impressive.”
LeSage, who grew up around the course, was a caddie when he first saw Palmer.
“It was amazing, he always commanded such a bigger crowd,” he said. “That was the formative moments of the senior tour. He used to make so much extra time when he was done with his round, he didn’t stop until he was finished signing autographs for everyone. He’d give you a wink and sign it. It was so different from how other players would react, they’d sign a few and move on.”
Above and at left, Arnold Palmer walks the fairways at Chester Valley Golf Club during the Bell Atlantic Classic. Palmer died Sunday evening.