BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is a commentary blog from WBRC FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
Like you, I was saddened to hear about the passing of golf legend Arnold Palmer.
As I've worked in both Jacksonville, Fla. (where The Players Championship is held) and Birmingham (home of the Region's Charity Classic, formerly the Bruno's Memorial Classic), I have had the pleasure of talking with and interviewing Mr. Palmer on numerous occasions.
But a memory from the mid-80's has stuck with me for some 30 years. That memory is so special simply because of how it all unfolded, and I still smile at the memory today.
As a TV reporter/anchor for WJXT TV4 in Jacksonville, I was covering golf often. Of course covering "The Players" at the TPC Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra was always something I looked forward to. From carrying Fred Couples' bag during a pro-am, to having Pat Summerall help me do shtick, to asking Jack Nicklaus about his round and getting a play-by-play of every shot, working that event was always a lot of fun.
But what happened at that tourney one day back in the late 80's is something that remains a head-scratcher, if only for the improbability that it happened at all.
I believe it was the first or second round (but my memory fails me) of The Players Championship and our 6 p.m. sportscast about an hour away. Fellow sports anchor Sam Kouvaris suggested I find a golfer to join him live. Where do you find a golfer to do such a thing? Well of course the driving range.
So there I ran, where seeing how late it was in the afternoon, only a few golfers stood. But one of those hitting golf balls? None other than Arnold Palmer.
I put on my best game face, approaching him with as much confidence as a kid in his mid-20s could. There I asked him if he could join us live on Channel 4 at 6:20 p.m. (go big or stay home, right?).
To my shock he said yes, but under one condition: that we go live from the condo at which he was staying across Highway A1A in the Sawgrass Marriott Resort. I sprinted back to our live truck engineers and with the help of my co-hort, talked them into rolling up all of those cables and moving the live truck across the highway.
It would not be an easy thing to accomplish, but this was Arnie. Our deadline? It was going to be close, but if we could pull off a live shot at Arnie's place we would strike gold.
So there we went, quickly and nervously. We found the condo, set up quickly on his screened-in backyard patio and there was The King, live on the local news. And after the live shot? Well, then the fun started.
As our engineers rolled up their cables and folded up tripods, we stood to say goodbye.
That's when Arnold Palmer stopped and said, "Why leave so fast? I'm cooking up some steaks and I have plenty of Budweisers. Ya wanna stay awhile?"
Did Arnold Palmer just ask us to stay for dinner? Well, uh, yep.
The good news for me? My job was done for the day, so I had a Bud (yes, just one) with Arnold Palmer! Sam and I didn't stay too long, but we did stay long enough to sit with Arnie and talk about golf and life. Some of the stories he shared were heartfelt, others a bit surprising. No, I'm not sharing them as many were, shall we say…memorable.
After staying for about an hour we excused ourselves, trying our best to stay composed. Some 30 years later, I'm sad that I don't have any pictures from that moment as back then I wasn't carrying around an iPhone. What I do have are mental pictures that will never leave me: hanging with The King, drinking a beer and talking golf.
I've been blessed down through the years to get one-one-interviews with legends such as Ted Williams, Michael Jordan, Bobby Orr, Derrick Thomas, Mia Hamm, Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Dale Earnhardt, Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen, Emmitt Smith, Peyton Manning, Shaquille O'Neal,Derrick Jeter...and the list goes on.
But having steak and beer with Arnold Palmer? It doesn't get much better than that! What's your favorite Arnold Palmer memory?