Behind The Scenes

Half a century of Palmer victories, defeats, laughs and memories.

Arnold Palmer

For a seven-year period from 1958-'64, Palmer ruled Augusta.

April 2004

Arnold Palmer and the Masters: For 50 years the two have been inseparable. As Andy Bean says, "You wish he could play for another 50." But he can't, and this year, at age 74, Arnie says he'll walk up the 18th fairway for the final time as a Masters contestant.

Images that began in black and white in 1955 have faded to gray. Baby boomers have become grandparents. Ten American presidents have served. But through the evolution of time there has been one constant: the charismatic man from Western PA.

To celebrate Palmer's 50th Masters, Golf Digest interviewed more than 50 people who have been part of the ride. Here are some of their favorite memories:

Dow Finsterwald, longtime friend, on Palmer's first Masters victory, in 1958: "He and I were playing Hogan and Jackie Burke. Arnold had just been in a playoff in Wilmington. Howie Johnson beat him. After being in a playoff, driving over Monday night and showing up Tuesday, he didn't play his best. Hogan asked Burke afterward how this guy got in the tournament. I think Arnold remembered that, frankly."

Jackie Burke: "I had Finsterwald tell me one day, 'Palmer will win four Masters before he's through.' I said, 'Finsty, are you kidding?' I didn't think anybody could win it four times. Demaret had won it three times in 10 years, and nobody touched that. When Palmer won the fourth, Finsterwald was the first to remind me what he said."

Dan Jenkins: "In 1957, for a midweek column, I was interviewing pros upstairs in the clubhouse on what was making Ken Venturi the next great player. Venturi surely looked like it then. When I got around to Jay Hebert, he stunned me when he said, 'Venturi's not the next great player. Arnold Palmer is.' Mind you, this was a full year before Arnold won his first Masters. I asked Jay why he thought that. He said, 'Palmer makes eight birdies a round. He also makes eight bogeys a round. One of these days he's gonna learn how to eliminate some bogeys, then it's look out, folks.' "

Frank Chirkinian, former CBS producer: "My first experience with Arnold was in 1959, my first Masters. The camera is strangeit's all-revealing. It either loves you or hates you, and it loved Arnold. And it has ever since. There was a quality about him that exists today that makes you say, 'Hey, I want to know this guy.' "

Frank Christian, official Masters photographer at the time: "The first time I got with Palmer was the early '60s. I've got terrible astigmatism, and I trippedfell right on my face, with my cameras scattered everywhere. I'm terribly embarrassed, and I look up, and there's Palmer looking at me. He comes over, and he's picking up cameras, helping me out. He just disarms you so."

Andy Bean: "I must have played 15 practice rounds with him at Augusta over the years, and Arnie, you know how he talks about how he doesn't hear? If you're playing with him, there are two comments he hears every single time. The first is, 'Look at that girl over there.' And the other one is, 'I press.' He turns around and grins at both of those. Of course, before he acknowledges you, he'll go to both legs, reach down and hitch his pants up, and then he'll turn around and smile at you."

Jack Nicklaus: "We played a ton of practice rounds together. Through all the years my standard bet has always been $10 with somebody. With Arnold it's always $20. The two of us like to pick each other's pocket." Lee Janzen: "Those who know Arnold Palmer will get a kick out of this. One time Payne Stewart and I were playing Arnold and Paul Azinger. We win the match, but Payne has played with Palmer before and knows he's not going to get paid. So while Arnold wasn't looking, Payne went over to Palmer's bag, unzipped the pouch and took the money himself. The funny thing is, Arnold might not even know he did it."

Fuzzy Zoeller: "My special memory is the time I played with Arnold in the Par-3 with Spider [John] Miller for $1,000 hole-in-one whipouts [paying on the spot]. I swear I thought I'd lost $1,000 on the seventh hole. Arnold hit one up there that looks like it's going in, and he's chicken walkinghe's hitching those pants up; he probably hitched them over his shoulders. My right hand was in my front pocket, but as it turned out he came up less than a foot short. Then at 9 I holed one on him. To this day I think Arnold thought Spider didn't pay me. He just waited until we got to the locker room. But Arnold whipped it out right there in front of everybody, that big wad with the rubber band around it."

Spider Miller: "My little boy, Frankie, was caddieing for me. He was in the third grade. Fuzzy's on the teeyou know how he's wiggling and wagglingand before he hits it, he turns around and says, 'Get your money ready boys; this one's goin' in the hole.' God's truth. We can't see from where we're sitting, but Fuzzy sucks it in, the crowd goes wild, my boy's jumping, and Arnold and I just hung our heads, because it cost us $1,000. I had the money on me, but I was thinking I shouldn't pay in front of everybody. But Fuzzy gets Arnold out in front of the crowd, and of course Arnie's got the money. He hands 10 hundreds to Fuzzy, who gives $200 of Arnold's money to my son. I waited and paid Fuzzy in the locker room. The next day Arnold looks me up. He's been thinking about it, and he didn't see me pay Fuzz. He says, 'You two Indiana guys didn't split me up, did you?' I tell him, 'No, we wouldn't do that.' "

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