By: Elsa Diaz
In 2012, I met Arnold Palmer at one of the most iconic places for golf in America.
The 18th hole at Pebble Beach.
We were taking a large group picture with all of the golfers from the First Tee program, through which I really came to know and love the game of golf. All of a sudden, there were whispers that “Arnie” was in the picture. In the midst of all of us was “The King.”
After the picture, I shook hands with him and his radiant smile, of which I’d seen and heard so much, was just magnetic up close.
Growing up, I loved to read about the famed golf dynamic of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Many of my friends wanted to be like Jack, with his serious dedication and meticulous approach to the game, and of course all those major titles.
I wanted to be like Arnie.
For him, golf was fun. Golf was open. Golf was about everyone. Golf never seemed like work for him.
I try to play the game with joy. Whether I’m playing well or not, the game should always be fun. I try to live my life like that too, with a smile and a laugh for every situation.
My inspiration is Arnold Palmer.
He did so much for the game of golf. I love watching videos of him as he walked down the fairway and just spoke to everyone. They say he was one of the first approachable athletes. He opened the game up to everyone, and made it relatable.
The whole idea of Arnie’s Army is just fantastic to me. What started as guys in the military supporting him at the Masters, and turning into this foundation that supports youth and their communities – that struck me as I was growing up and learning the game of golf. For Arnie, the game was about everyone else.
I’ve always been an extrovert. And his example taught me that I can be myself on the golf course.
Even though none of us in the First Tee program ever saw him compete in his prime, the lessons of Arnold Palmer always persisted. When they taught us about golf etiquette and class and graciousness, Arnie was always the example. At tournaments, guys and girls would always say just “Be Like Arnie.”
When we heard the news of his death, we were on our golf van coming back from a tournament at Penn State. It was shocking and sad.
But when you step back and ask the hard question: “how can you define a great life lived?”
I think it becomes much easier.
You think of Arnold Palmer.