The Arnie's Army Story
The Arnie's Army Story
As told by Arnold Palmer
It was 1959 when I first saw the words “Arnie’s Army”. I only wish I knew the name of the young man who was clever enough to coin the phrase.
I was the defending champion at the Masters that year, and, as he always did in those days, Clifford Roberts – Augusta National’s co-founder along with Bob Jones, used GIs from nearby Camp Gordon (now Fort Gordon), the military installation where Cliff spent two years as a young soldier, to work the scoreboards.
Many people don’t realize that the Masters was not a sellout in those early years. Anybody with five dollars could walk up to the gates and buy a ticket for the day. Elementary school teachers had boxes of tickets on their desks with signs reading, “Masters Tickets: Please Help Support Our Town.” Cliff wanted as large a gallery as he could get that year since the Masters was being televised for the second time, so he gave free passes to any soldier who showed up in uniform.
A lot of the soldiers did not necessarily know a lot about golf, but when they found out that I was defending champion they joined my gallery. That prompted one of the GIs working a back-nine scoreboard to announce the arrival of “Arnie’s Army,” which is what it looked like. I can’t remember another time, other than my stint in the Coast Guard, when so many uniformed soldiers surrounded me. A year later, when I won my second Masters title, I thanked the “army” of supporters who came out to follow me.
Johnny Hendricks, a reporter from The Augusta Chronicle, picked up on the phrase and ran the headline “Arnie’s Army” for the first time. Boy, did it ever stick! Before I finished my playing career I think every newspaper, magazine, or television station that covered golf used the phrase at least once.
In 1960, during the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills in Denver, the gallery was back in my corner like never before. After the third round on Saturday morning I trailed the leader, Mike Souchak, by seven strokes. I knew I could catch him. That afternoon my "charge" began and my “Army” was there supporting me. I birdied the first four holes and by the time he reached the fifth tee, it seemed like everyone at Cherry Hills was rooting for me to win. I went on to shoot 65, the lowest (at that time) final round score in U.S. Open history, for a total of 280. I won my first U.S. Open having completed the largest comeback in the sixty-five-year history of the Open. The cheers of the crowd that day will always be among my greatest memories. I know the support of Arnie’s Army had as much to do with my winning the championship as the shots I played.
When I was a boy learning to play golf in my hometown of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, I never could have imagined that one day I’d have an “Army” of fans or that people would call me “The King” of the sport I love. For me, it started with a dream - to play the game with unmatched perfection. As I pursued that dream you were there with me every step of the way, at every tournament, in every town, cheering me on, united as Arnie’s Army.
I believe that the members of Arnie’s Army are leaders far from the fairways; that they always do things the “fair way.” I believe Arnie’s Army knows that in order to make a better future for all of us, the children need our support. We need to ensure a bright future full of opportunities for everyone. Golf gave me the opportunity to make a significant impact in the world, to invest in a better tomorrow. For those of you who followed me during my life, I am eternally grateful for that. But now I’m calling on you - all of you - to join me again.
We have more work to do. Join me. Join Arnie’s Army.