The business of golf – “He noticed a familiar face hitting golf balls . . .”

By Alan Prescott
April 26, 2021

Previous articles:

“The business of golf – It takes a village”

The business of golf – ” . . . another professional . . . came from Brooklyn. His name was Wiffey Cox”

The business of golf – “When your golf game is good, your business is bad.”

“The business of golf – The evening school of golf”

“The business of golf – “7 nights of sleeping in his car . . .”

Fernandina Beach Golf Course

In my last article, I gave a partial list of the golf clubs at which Ken’s son John had worked in the early 1970’s. When John was almost done with his list, he corrected himself and added that he wasn’t perfect in his golf career. What he said was he had made an unintentional omission chronologically in the year 1973. At the outset of 1973, as soon as his college education was completed, he hired on as the second assistant at the very exclusive Country Club of Darien in Darien, Connecticut. Even though the golf club had a membership, it was owned by the grandfather, Mr. Auchincloss, who happened to be the grandfather of Jacqueline Onassis, the former first lady of President John F. Kennedy. His house was located on the hill overlooking the golf course. Mr. Auchincloss was a often-times grumpy old man, who only allowed the membership to do certain things. He watched everything, especially the professional staff at the golf club.

One day, when John was driving onto the golf course property, he noticed a familiar face hitting golf balls off of the 10th tee. There were two garbage cans placed out on the fairway approximately 300 yards from the tee. The golfer hit ball after ball,
all landing in between the two garbage cans. John stopped to watch. A camera crew was set up alongside the tee filming each shot. John wondered who this golfer was because the camera crew’s jackets said “United Airlines” on the back of each person’s jacket. Who was this golfer?

John could hardly wait to get to the pro shop and ask his boss, the golf club’s PGA Professional. His boss said quite matter-of-factly, “It’s Arnold Palmer”!!! John could hardly contain his excitement after that announcement. However, in spite of the fact that only each PGA Golf Professional was allowed to play with Mr. Palmer, and John was only an Apprentice, the best opportunity that afternoon was when, after Mr. Palmer’s play, he came over and asked John about his life so far as an apprentice golf professional, and was nice enough to stand with John for a special picture. John’s heart almost jumped out of his chest. He had followed Mr. Palmer’s career since 1958 through his major tournament wins. In 1966, John’s eyes were glued to the television. It was the United States Open during the final round on Sunday. Coming down the stretch, at the beginning of the final 9 holes, Arnold Palmer led Billy Casper by 7 shots. During the last 9 holes, Arnold Palmer lost his 7-shot lead and Billy Casper won the tournament.

John was crushed. His golf hero, who had the reputation of charging from the pack to win golf tournaments, had lost to Billy Casper. A short time later, Mr. Casper admitted that, every night when he went to bed, he thanked “Arnie” for what Arnie had done to make his fellow touring golf professionals earn a better living. The disappointment that John had felt after Arnie’s loss in 1966 was a small vindication for John. As John held that picture in his hand, tears welled up in his eyes and then ran down his face. His hand that was trembling while he attempting to say a few words as if to console “Arnie”. John muttered these words, “Thank you, Mr. Palmer, for all that you have done for golf and for my golf career”.

However, the tide was about to change. Golf had become more than a game to John. It was now his chosen career and, with that choice came a rude awakening and yet another test of John’s will to stay the course and learn to navigate through an even more difficult school. I’ll call it, “The School of the Business of Golf”. What does it take to earn your degree?

As always, please stay healthy and be safe. I am Alan Prescott and I can be reached at [email protected] Your comments are always welcome.

Editor’s Note: Alan Prescott reached out to us after reading a recent article on the Fernandina Beach Golf Course. His articles are being well received by golfers and non-golfers.  We thank Alan for his contribution to the Fernandina Observer.

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