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by David Baril
Head Golf Professional, Coal Creek Golf Course
(originally shared September 26, 2016)

In 1991 I was hired as the Director of Golf at Geneva National Golf Club, in Lake Geneva Wisconsin. Geneva National boasts three courses designed by expert players, one of which was Arnold Palmer. As a component of his contract, Arnold Palmer played an inaugural round of golf dedicating the new golf course. I had the opportunity to play the first round of golf with Arnold Palmer that August day in 1991.

Arnold Palmer has been admired by golfers for some time. After observing him that day in August I was able to comprehend why he was revered as a “King”. Arnold would not leave a tee or green until anyone and everyone who wished to say hello or ask for an autograph had been served. This process went on throughout the day. He was gracious to everyone and you felt after that brief encounter he could be your friend for life.

It is important to note those facts as it sets the stage to tell the story of his best shot of the day. It is also important to note that Arnold was not playing particularly well that day. Until hole 17.
The signature hole at the Palmer course at Geneva National is the 17th hole. It is a par 5, sweeping dogleg left that requires both length and accuracy with Lake Como bordering the entire left side of the fairway and the green stuck out on a peninsula. The tee shot landing area is moderately generous, however, a small grove of white oak trees guards the left side. A tee shot landing short of the oak trees requires one of two choices. One, a slinging hook to the right of the trees to find the fairway that continually bent to the left OR two, a straight shot over water to the peninsula green.
That day it played into a 20-mile wind at 570 yards. (Please remember that in 1991 we were still using persimmon drivers and soft balata golf balls). Arnie hit his drive. He pulled his tee shot and it landed closer to the water than what I thought he intended.

Arnie was not wearing a microphone but one was close by and all their conversations were being transmitted to the gallery that had been following him all day. He and his caddy were discussing what iron to hit the lay-up shot. After I heard the conversation and decision to lay-up I walked over and made a bold statement to a legend that I had just met several hours earlier.
“Arnie, no one here wants to see you lay-up.” He looked at me with piercing eyes that softened quickly as a grin grew on his face. He turned to his caddy and stated with confidence born from results “Give me the 3 wood."
A swing that had been shaky all day, became invigorated as that shot, into a quartering wind, flew straight at the flag, traveling over water 250 yards and landed safely on the green.
The crowd went wild. We all witnessed the greatness that many had seen countless times.
Arnie proceeded to birdie that hole and the 18th hole, his only two birdies of the day. Everyone who was there witnessed the greatness of his golf and the presence of a truly special person.
Arnold Palmer earned his reputation as King and the adulation that most golfers have for him.

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Louisville, CO 80027
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