Over this tragic past weekend, the sports world lost two giant figures who, in different ways, represent extraordinary success stories of the American Dream.
The legendary Arnold Palmer passed away at 87 after an impossibly full life as one of the greatest icons in any sport, not only golf. In addition to being one of golf’s most accomplished champions, he earned a reputation as a class act, as admired and well-liked for his down-to-earth, gentlemanly demeanor as for his golfing skill. Palmer was noted, for example, for never refusing a fan his autograph nor asking to be paid for it.
I’m not a golfer but my late father was on the course nearly every weekend. He was an enormous fan of “Arnie,” as he and countless others called him – as if they were buddies, because Arnie was so personable and accessible that his millions of followers – “Arnie’s Army” – viewed him as a friend.
Two stories serve to capture Arnie’s kindness and humility, qualities too often overlooked and underappreciated in our era of oftentimes narcissistic and self-aggrandizing superstars.
In 2014 an avid, 18-year-old golfer and local tournament winner named Nate Marcoulier received a graduation gift from his older brother Adam. It was a letter from Arnold Palmer, whom Adam had written in the hope that the golfing icon would have some life advice for Nate. Both brothers were stunned when Palmer replied, congratulating Nate on his golf victories and telling him he would find life “enjoyable and fulfilling” if he followed this advice: