Miserable weather plagued much of Wednesday’s British Open festival atmosphere, but it quickly subsided as Arnold Palmer walked to the first tee to take part in the Champion Golfers’ Challenge. As if some Godsend from above, the sun broke out and lit up St. Andrews for Arnold Palmer’s long goodbye to a place that will live fondly in the 85 year old’s heart forever.
At 85, Arnold Palmer is clearly having trouble walking, plagued by a painful hip that has limited the amount of golf balls he is able to hit these days. He can count the number of rounds he’s played in the last year on one hand. His pain was evident at the Masters Tournament when he hit the ceremonial tee shot. The ball travelled about 50 yards, crashing into spectators. Palmer even concedes that he shouldn’t be on the golf course these days.
Wednesday was his farewell to St. Andrews. In 1960, Palmer had captured the hearts of sports fans by winning the Masters and U.S. Open – similar to the path that Jordan Spieth has taken this year. He traveled to St. Andrews for the third leg of the Grand Slam, only to lose by one shot to Kel Nagle. When he won the Claret Jug in 1961 and 1962, he put the British Open championship back to the prominence it deserved.
Palmer’s caddie, Cori Britt, could not hold back the tears as he walked with Palmer at St. Andrews one final time. 2010 winner Louis Oosthuizen was equally as moved:
“It’s amazing to see a great champion like that. You don’t really expect them to grow old. You always can envision them the way they played the game, which makes it more special for him to come back and do this. That’s why he stands out to everyone else.”
One thing is for certain, even though Palmer won’t return to St. Andrews again to participate in another ceremonial match, the town will never forget the King’s legacy and the joy he provided to so many people.