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March 17, 1999

James Dodson

Arnold Palmer


ELLEN ARCHER: Good morning. I am Ellen Archer. On behalf of Ballantine Books I welcome all of you to our press conference launch for A GOLFER'S LIFE by Arnold Palmer with Jim Dodson. Before we begin our session, I wanted to extend a warm welcome to Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and to several senior staff from the PGA TOUR who are generously supplying copies of a GOLFER'S LIFE to every member of the PGA TOUR, the NIKE Tour and the SENIOR PGA TOUR. So now I will turn the podium over to Mr. Palmer and Mr. Dodson who would be happy to answer any questions you have.

JAMES DODSON: Are we going to do our dog-and-pony show that we did over --

ARNOLD PALMER: Did you all know Jim Dodson? No, I am serious. Everyone know Jim Dodson? You don't know him?

JAMES DODSON: Two guys in the first row.

A VOICE: I am one of his friends.

JAMES DODSON: Yes, he is indeed. I think maybe the place to begin is to talk a little bit about why Arnold did this book and how it came about. After I wrote a book call FINAL ROUNDS, Mrs. Palmer had read FINAL ROUNDS and liked the intimacy of the book and the way we talked about the history of the game and sort of wove the game with life, which is -- we all know is pretty much why golf is such a great metaphor for the game. Judith Curr, the editor at Ballantine had wanted to do and approached Arnold about writing his biography or autobiography. I know the world has been waiting for his autobiography for many years. I think he went kicking and screaming at first to the idea, but when they called me up just before Christmas of 1996, I went down and met the Palmers and we talked about how to do the book and I had spoken with Judy prior to this and she and I agreed that we needed to write a book that was warm and affectionate but also very approachable, a book that really both revealed and felt was worthy of the personality of Arnold Palmer and who he is and what he stands for. I had said to Winnie and Arnold at the time I met him that if I was chosen to help him with this book, the thing I wanted to do was write a book that felt so intimate, it was almost like you were sitting with Arnold when he is having a scotch and telling you these tales of his life. So the first thing we needed to do was get rid -- I wasn't comfortable with the idea of an autobiography because I guess maybe it seemed to me like taking down the Brittanica Encyclopedia and reading a life - I went here and I did this. I said as a fan of Arnold Palmer what I would have rather read is a very detailed, but intimate feeling about the things that you cared about; the things that you loved the most; the things that created who you are, that hurt you and just the whole life rather than the game. I am not sure -- I don't know if you were comfortable with that at first. I think he thought I was trying to write some kind of expose, maybe, I don't know. But I said that was sort of how I wanted to do it and I said rather than an autobiography, I'd rather write a memoirs, something that is much more affectionate and approachable. So we started and I also -- one of the terms I had is the things I wanted to do, I said I didn't want to write this from source materials. There are thousand and thousands of pages in the life and times and the exploits of Arnold Palmer. I said I really wanted to write something that was so really from you, so we would talked about this. Everything you read in this book is something we have talked about. And I think it is reason the book has some real surprises in it. There are things, with all due respect, I really pushed him on and he was very gracious, but I think after we had earned each other's trust, he knew that I tried to help him see there were things that we can tell, stories we can tell that would only draw his fans closer to him. And this is a man who I think you can say without exception across the world, sports fans feel a closeness to Arnold Palmer that anybody in the public eye in the sports world and to me, to give the readers of this book anything less than the most intimate feeling, would be a mistake. So that is what we set out to do and he can tell you as he did, I pushed him around, I guess, for a couple of years.

ARNOLD PALMER: Yes, when we started this book three years ago he didn't have any gray hairs. (laughter) He has got a few now. Actually, I think Jim told you pretty much how we got onto this. Winnie had read FINAL ROUNDS and we had been discussing the possibility of doing an autobiography or memoirs, whatever we call it, for some time and kept some anecdotes; Doc kept some things in the files to kind of remind us of things that had happened over the years and so that I could refresh my memories on all the things that happened. And then I read FINAL ROUNDS. Of course, I think if you read it, you enjoyed it. It is warm. It tells a story that -- it is a father and a son and golf all put together and that was kind of my life with the family and all the things that are important. And having talked to Jim, I was sure that he had the same thoughts as I had in doing this book. We spent a lot of hours talking and really my telling stories that you read about in this book. Some of them were sad. Some of them were harsh. Some of them were fun and, of course, I consider my life a little bit that way. Winnie, the girls, what they meant to me and what it meant to write about them and how I like to protect them from a lot of the things that I have done and had to do in my life, I didn't want them to have to get into unless they chose to do that. That is what we talked about. Of course, we feel pretty good about what the results were. I think Jim Dodson did just a helluva job in taking all the things that I told him and putting them in my words, which he did. I was very pleased about that. I have read it about three times and there are not many discrepancies in my feelings or my thoughts than what you read in the book. It is something that I feel comfortable with, let's put it that way. I hope that everyone that reads it likes it. And it also is -- kind of tells a little bit about my family and myself that might not have otherwise been talked about and I will be very honest with you, we avoided some things that we did not feel were important to the final line in the book. But a lot of the feelings that I have and have not mentioned prior to are in the book, whether it be in the Hats Off, or you name it, and there will be some chuckles, I know about some of the things that you read in the various chapters that tell you about my feelings and my personal feelings. That is about all I have to say.

JAMES DODSON: Well, I just want to make a couple quick comments and then we can open it up to questions if you have some. First of all, I just want to thank Judy Curr who is just terrific as editor; who understood from the beginning why this was a unique collaboration. There are many of you in this room who could have written this book and done a wonderful job of it and there are hundreds of writers around the world who could have done a wonderful job with it. The reason I think I was chosen to help Arnold with this and do this book was that of the intimacy with which I write and the way I look at the game and our values were very, very similar. Judy understood that and understood that it was kind of a unique collaboration between the three of us, and the spirit of it, from the beginning, was very, very comfortable. We were a good match and Judith worked so hard. I finished this book on New Year's Day and we edited in about three and a half weeks which I have never seen a house that pulled out the stops (sic) to do what these people did in order to bring this book out. So I just want to say a mighty big heart-felt thank you to Judy and her staff and Ellen and everybody else at Ballantine who just really was fantastic. It was her book in terms of vision and she really never wavered in the support of it. I also personally want to thank Mrs. Palmer because as you know, when you do a book like this and become so deeply involved in peoples' lives, there is the old saying you should never get to know your heroes because they will disappoint you. I had a bit of trepidation about getting to know Arnold Palmer, I confess now because I was afraid -- well, I mentioned FINAL ROUNDS, I had two heroes my dad and Arnold Palmer. I knew my dad and he didn't disappoint me. And I didn't know if I'd get two for two. I can say this: At the end of the project, I liked the Palmers twice as much as at the beginning. That is the best thing you can say about somebody. We had a lot of fun and except he was so nervous when we played golf - oh, I am sorry, it was me that was nervous when we played golf. He forbore my awful golf swing.

ARNOLD PALMER: I am glad you are a good writer, yes. (laughter).

JAMES DODSON: If you could just write -- let's see how do we put it, if you could write the way I play golf or if I could play golf the way -- I write the way you play golf, I think that is what you said.

ARNOLD PALMER: I didn't say anything.

JAMES DODSON: Unfortunately I don't play golf the way -- maybe I do play golf the way he writes. Anyway, we had a lot of fun. We had a lot of laughs doing this. I think you will feel -- hopefully you will feel the quality the book as you are reading it; you will feel that humor and goodwill that both of us have towards the game and the people we meet in the game and there are some unusual things at the end of the book that I felt strongly that we needed a chapter, the Hats Off chapter to really sum up a lot of things that Arnold Palmer, in my view, should say to the Golf World and the world at large about how times have changed in the way we maintain the game and whether we caretake it properly and there is no one ever in the history of the game who is better suited to do that than Arnold Palmer. So I felt like the last chapter is a very special chapter in the book because it describes both his legacy, his values and what we all feel about the game, but it was really a great privilege to work on this book and I am really, really honored. Thank you very much.

ARNOLD PALMER: Any questions?

Q. You have meant so much, especially here in Orlando to this community beyond the game of golf. Can you tell us why you chose to do the multitude of things that you have done here in Orlando?

ARNOLD PALMER: Well, I think it is a whole combination of things why I came here in the first place was I liked the countryside, if you wish, the environment, the pristine freshwater lakes, horses, let us say the ocean and that was -- had a lot to do with my coming here. And very frankly, I came here because it was a small town and it was -- Bay Hill was very special. I came here the first time in 1948 to play golf against Rollins and I knew then that some day I would be back here. I didn't know to what extent I would be here, but I like Winter Park; I like the small-town atmosphere and as I mentioned earlier, the pristine lakes and the surrounding areas. All of that, of course, changed and everyone thought that I was very, very intelligent to know that Disneyworld was going to come here and a lot of people expressed that. They said: How did you know? Well, frankly, I think Disneyworld is great and I think what is happening is fantastic. On the other hand, I didn't want that to happen. I was looking for a small golf course in a rural community that I could have some fun playing golf and enjoying the game of golf. As far as the community is concerned, a lot of people were very nice to me from - people like Frank Hubbard - I could name just a lot of people that were very cordial and made me feel very comfortable here in Orlando. That was 30 years ago. As a matter of fact, Frank Hubbard was the one that came to me and asked if I would consider doing an Arnold Palmer Hospital. Of course, at the time that this all happened, I had been at the medical center, Orlando Regional Medical Center and I saw some things that made me think that they needed badly a hospital for children and women. So it wasn't just a total surprise that he asked me to do this. But when I was going to was something else - I didn't know that I -- I wanted to get that involved and after some discussions we decided that we would give it a go and, of course, I can't tell you how much that means to us, to this town and to Central Florida to see the hospital, to go there. We are very proud of the hospital and we just hope it continues to make the progress that it has. As far as the golf tournament and the other things that we have done here, again, it was Frank Hubbard who was key in talking to me about the tournament and the possible move from Rio Pinar to Bay Hill. I was encouraged by that thought and pursued it. That was 21 years ago. We think we have done pretty well with it.

Q. Assuming that another rivalry like you and Jack develops on the Tour, is it possible for them to win as many majors and other tournaments in the future given the depth of golf the way it is today?

ARNOLD PALMER: Is it possible?

Q. Yes.

ARNOLD PALMER: I think so.

Q. How probable? How likely?

ARNOLD PALMER: I think it is very possible. But I question whether it will happen for a lot of reasons. Some of which are the total devotion, that whomever this person or persons might be, whether they will devote themselves to the game and to the practice, all the things that it takes to win and to be a dominant figure. I think David Duval has done or it looks like he can do very well. Whether he has an interest in being that figure is -- may be questionable. And Tiger Woods - the hype and all the things that happen in golf today is a little different than it was 30 years ago. The intenseness is, I guess, greater because of the prize money and the fact that they are playing for a lot more money and when they do well, their bank account swells and there are other interests that could take away from the very question that you ask me, if you could have that sort of rivalry. I think it is very possible, but I am not sure that it is going to happen.

Q. I know that Jim encouraged you here to open yourself up and to be candid in certain ways, but I am curious how much of a tussle was it within your own mind, you know, in the evenings when you were sitting around and going over some of these things to be as candid as Jim knew a book like this would be to really come alive?

ARNOLD PALMER: Well, there were a lot of discussions about just about everything that you read and Winnie, my wife, had a lot to do and was a very important part of those discussions. I can tell you that there wasn't very many things left out. It is a pretty thorough book in that the -- most everything that has happened has been touched on. Now, some of the things that we chose not to go into detail simply because they weren't important. They weren't things that that would make a great deal of difference in the book and we didn't want to get to a point where we bore you with details of some of my business activities, or some of the things that were just not something that I chose to talk about.

JAMES DODSON: May I break in, if I can give you an example, his business setbacks from about 1988, 1989 to the early '90s, 1993, we talked -- we had-- we took some of that out. We actually wrote a lot about it and it occurred then to both of us that the important -- I mean, these events were public record. They were out there. The WALL STREET JOURNAL had written about them so this wasn't news. So to regurgitate it all seemed like a waste of space in the book that I didn't want to go over about 420 pages. So I had said: Why do we even need to talk about the details of this. We need to know what you think, we will say what happened and you will describe then how you felt about this. Because his feelings about what happened, to my mind, superseded far superseded what the events themselves in some ways. Because they were difficult times for Arnold, and to me, it set up then a nicer thing which is closer to who Arnold Palmer is which is Bay Hill, the Bay Hill tournament - I think it was 1991 when we got rained out and they presented him the cake in the locker room here and that was probably a low point, which turned into a high point. I said, you know, it will be nice for you to -- let's take the reader there and to a moment which reveals who you are and what the respect people have for you and what your peers think of you. So we -- we telescoped down, as it were, some of that, or decided that it would be -- it would be a burden to the book to go through the details of these business setbacks. But he didn't hide from them. I want to say, unequivocally, Arnold and Winnie and I asked them some very, very difficult things and Arnold, especially some difficult things about his career and life, and they just never -- they were just unfailingly open and honest about everything. Never told me I couldn't say something and never said -- that is a biographer's dream, frankly.

Q. Touching back on the first question, being a local resident here I can remember you playing with Don Cherry, Dave Regan, Jack Nicklaus. At that time were -- you just bought Bay Hill. Did you envision this tournament was going to be as big as it is? Was that kind of in your plans?

ARNOLD PALMER: I could have no idea that it was going to turn out the way it did. I knew -- that is what started my discussions about buying Bay Hill. I asked those people that day if they were interested in selling Bay Hill. And they were not -- you know, they weren't even like warm. They were headed in a direction that I didn't understand and as a matter of fact, I had two friends who were both attorneys and golfers who worked for five years with that group to put together the deal. So I had no -- I liked the space that was here and I liked the golf course and I saw some great potential --

Q. Small town then?

ARNOLD PALMER: -- for playing golf and enjoying an area.

Q. So associated with The Masters, how is the 37 page chapter on Augusta -- any stories in there that we do not that will be new?

ARNOLD PALMER: Are there any stories -- well, I'd like to think there that will -- there are a lot of things in there that have never been printed about Augusta. Most -- I can't think of a negative about Augusta except some of my golf that was bad. I mean, I don't always agree with everything that has happened there over the years and I think I said that in some instances, but I think that, you know, I just -- I am a person that thinks Augusta and the golf tournament is a part of the tradition of the game and a very important part of it.

Q. Was that one of your favorite chapters to do?

ARNOLD PALMER: It is, yeah. We enjoyed it. Brought back some memories to me. Jim and I were -- when I was talking to him about it, and of course, some of you people, but not many of you, are old enough to remember George Lowe, but George Lowe was the guy that was standing on the ropes on the sidelines and I had gotten him a ticket, as a matter of fact, to get in. I had birdied 17 to take a one-shot lead, playing 18 and I had hit my drive in the middle of the fairway and George was standing over in the sideline and I walked over and he motioned me over, actually. I walked over and said, hello, he says, give me five. In typical George fashion manner -- George Lowe manner. And I did. And then promptly made 6 and lost the tournament. That was one of the things that we talked about and my father used to say, you know, it isn't over until it is over and of course, I immediately went through the whole scenario of Hogan and Sarazen at Olympic Club and then, of course, the same thing happened to me. I get to Olympic Club and had the same disaster. That is what we talked about. That is the way we talked about it.

JAMES DODSON: You know, one of the surprises -- and I thought I had known all the Arnold/Augusta stories, but when we veered into -- we start up talking about the -- after playing a practice round with Dow (Finsterwald) and against Hogan and Burke and he'd never told this story, and started talking about Hogan's reaction to him and the comment Hogan made to Burke about how did this guy Palmer get invited to Augusta in 1958. Knowing Arnold, as I do, I am sure he burnt with -- well, he won the tournament that year so I guess he showed Mr. Hogan why he was invited. That is a great story.

ARNOLD PALMER: Hogan said - and I will never forget it and I hadn't said it until Jim and I talked about it. Winnie knew it. She was probably the only one who knew it, but when we got in the locker room and Dow and I had collected 35 bucks.

JAMES DODSON: You played terribly. He carried you.

ARNOLD PALMER: Dow did? Dow played like hell. Hogan sat at another table. They were very close friends, Burke, and Jack is a good friend of mine. He says how in the hell did he get in the Masters? Meaning me. And I didn't tell anybody that story except Winnie. Then I won the tournament. I couldn't find him to ask him. (laughter) These are things that are personal and maybe I shouldn't have said them. Hogan never called me by my first name.

JAMES DODSON: That one astounded me.

ARNOLD PALMER: Never. I was "fella," or "hey," or something in that order. That didn't mean anything except that he probably didn't give a shit who I was (laughter), that was it. That is the way it was.

Q. How did you get in that year?

ARNOLD PALMER: I can't remember.

Q. Who got you interested in golf?

ARNOLD PALMER: My father was a golf professional and he tried to monitor it very severely in the early days.

Q. I am still surprised that Jim was able to get you, pin you down for long periods of time. You are not a guy that likes to sit for long period of time.

ARNOLD PALMER: I am going to tell you --

JAMES DODSON: Drinking scotch.

ARNOLD PALMER: I will tell them. Some of you know my routine and some of you don't. But my routine today, yesterday, tomorrow, is I have my physical things that I do in the morning and I exercise and I have my breakfast and everything is a pretty set routine. I go to the office generally between 8 and 8:30. Whatever paperwork, autographing usually is an hour to two hours a day, depending on where I have been and what I have been doing. And then I will sort of meander back to my shop and fiddle with golf clubs, design golf clubs, fix them, break them, and a lot of the time Doc would come back and we would talk about business and mail and do letters and that sort of thing. And Jim cut Doc out. Jim came and we would spend hours and usually the shortest session was generally about, oh an hour and a half to two hours and the longest lasted up to five hours where we talked and did this book. We did that a lot, frequently.

Q. While you were in the shop?

ARNOLD PALMER: While I was in the shop. And then of course, at 12, 12:30, one o'clock.

JAMES DODSON: After he had taken all my money on the golf course.

ARNOLD PALMER: We would go to the golf course and play, and we would talk on the golf course too while we were playing.

JAMES DODSON: I learned early never to ask him anything on the golf course.

ARNOLD PALMER: Of course I think about Joe and the Golf Channel and what we -- we talked a lot about the Golf Channel and what that has meant to us and to me and to our lives and it is a very important part. It is an ongoing situation that I have enjoyed and I think of Joe Gibbs' work and how much effort he has put into making that work and you think about it, it is a network itself and it is 25 million subs around the world right now, growing. What that is going to mean to golf in the years going by is an unbelievable factor in my life and in those people out there and how much it is going to mean.

ELLEN ARCHER: Thank you, everyone, for joining us this morning. Mr. Palmer, Mr. Dodson will stay here for a few more minutes to answer any questions and sign books.

End of FastScripts....

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