What an emotional entrance for Arnold Palmer at the 98th PGA Annual Meeting in Indanapolis Saturday.
The Hall of Famer and PGA member was here to accept the inaugural Deacon Palmer Award, bestowed posthumously upon Arnold's father and only coach. The award was accepted by Arnold Palmer.
But it was Arnold Palmer's entrance that created a stir. He was welcomed with a long standing ovation from this large crowd of PGA Professionals and PGA of America employees. Cell phones were raised to capture the unique moment, and the moment created more than a few misty eyes. The entrance was touching, and clearly humbled Arnold Palmer, a full two minutes of appreciation as Interim PGA President Derek Sprague escroted the legend to the stage for a fireside chat with Golf Channel's David Marr III.
Arnold Palmer, 85, described his youth and upbringing in the household led by a stern Deacon Palmer, a man who taught him his golf grip at a young age in his first lesson. Arnold grabbed the club, Deacon set the grip. "Now don't ever change it," Deacon Palmer told his son.
"Everything in my life, he taught me," said Arnold Palmer, both moved by his father's award and happy to have such an engaged forum to tell Deacon's story. Arnold Palmer also told the story of when his father learned Arnold wanted to play golf on tour. Deacon Palmer wasn't a fan of the idea.
Deacon Palmer looked over at the tractor, and said, "When you can't play, you can still drive that tractor."
Then, Arnold smiled, and admitted, "Well, luckily I never had to drive that tractor."
The Deacon Palmer Award bestows special recognition upon a PGA Professional who personally displays outstanding integrity, character and leadership in the effort to overcome a major obstacle in his/her life.
“I am most appreciative that the PGA has chosen to honor my father with this award,” Arnold Palmer said in a PGA of America release about the award.
After being stricken with polio as a child, Deacon Palmer developed a strong upper body. He walked with a limp, but that did not hinder his love and passion for golf. He loved to play with club members and developed his own strong and sturdy golf swing.
Deacon Palmer worked on the construction of Latrobe (Pennsylvania) Country Club as a teenager in 1920. He became grounds superintendent in 1926 and was named golf professional in 1932. Deacon Palmer was elected to PGA membership in 1946. He died in 1976 at age 71.
“Deacon Palmer was more than the father of a son who ascended to the pinnacle of golf,” said PGA of America Interim President Derek Sprague. “He became a shining example of the golf profession. In the spirit of this humble man from Western Pennsylvania, the PGA of America is extremely proud to establish the Deacon Palmer Award and to have Arnold Palmer accept on behalf of his late father.”