I was reminded recently of an incredible shot by Arnold Palmer witnessed by myself and only very few other hardy souls on 26th May 1975.
On a whim a great golfing friend Simon and I had decided to travel down from Cambridge to Royal St Georges to watch the final round of the Penfold PGA tournament. Setting off just after midnight and arriving near the course about 3am we attempted to sleep in the car in a lay-by near the course. Gale force winds buffeted the car meaning that very little sleep was achieved. I recall clambering out of the car soon after sunrise and being nearly blown off my feet. How could it be possible to play golf in such conditions?
We staggered our way out onto the course and settled down in a hollow near the second green. In the distance we could just make out the unmistakable silhouette of the swashbuckling swing of Arnold Palmer set against the storm filled sky as he struck his drive from the Second hole tee. The drive into the teeth of the wind finished in the centre of the fairway but a considerable distance from the green. After a short consultation with his caddie Mr Palmer took out his driver and settled over his second shot. The shot that followed has remained seared into my memory ever since. After the typical Palmer thrusting follow through, the ball set off barely climbing above waist height off the ground it hugged the fairway and penetrated the gale force wind. Magically just before the front edge of the green the ball seemed to slam on the brakes and to hover almost as if it was taking a look around to discover where the hole was situated. It then levitated up to maybe 15ft and slowly floated back down as if following orders from 'The King' to gently settle less than 2ft from the hole. Simon and I looked at each other with a look of total astonishment, not a word was said, mainly because any words would have been blown away on the wind before reaching our ears.
We set off and followed the great man for the rest of his round. Arnold Palmer went on to score a truly incredible 71 which included an Eagle 3 at the 14th. He won the tournament coming from 5 shots behind entering the last round to beat Eamon Darcy by 2 shots. The average score for the 57 players competing in the final round was just over 78.
This year, some 41 years later during a phone conversation Simon and I were reminiscing about the crazy things we did in our youth. The subject of that madcap trip to St Georges came up. Simon said "Do you remember that shot played by Arnold Palmer on the second hole?" Incredibly his recollection was as clear as mine. Simon reported that he could visualise the shot in his minds eye and had spoken of it to others many times since.
Arnold Palmer truly was a one off magician of the fairways. He conjured shots that were very hard to conceive and left his audiance shaking their heads in bewilderment.
P.S. I discovered whilst looking back at the details of the tournament that a certain Severiano Ballesteros made his debut playing a British tournament in that very same Penfold PGA tournament (missing the cut comprehensively) and reportedly hated the course, the wind and rain. He later overcame his dislike of the course to win the PGA championship there some 8 years later.