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Mentored by the KingArnold Palmer's Success Lessons for Golf, Business, and Life
By Brad Brewer Paul J. Batura
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2010 Brad Brewer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLESSON 1 Remember Your Roots
Arnold Palmer's office is a choked-down lob wedge away from his residence and sits directly across the road from the Latrobe Country Club in Pennsylvania's leafy-green Laurel Highlands. Situated just east of the old steel mills of Pittsburgh, it seems an unlikely headquarters for the world's most accomplished and famous golfer. A man of means and influence, Palmer could have chosen to live anywhere, but there's no place he would rather call home than right here.
At eighty-one years old, the white-haired legend has traveled, played, and won titles and championships around the world. He's been a friend to presidents and heads of state, and you would be hard-pressed to find any award in sports or business that he was eligible for but hasn't yet received. In spite of all this, however, the trappings of celebrity haven't fazed or changed him. He still keeps his circle of friends small—all trusted people with whom he goes back decades. It's true that success has brought him fame and fortune, access and opportunity, but after every trip to victory or honor, all roads continue to bring him home, back to where it all began, back to the lush green hills of Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
Arnold Palmer was born here just a few weeks prior to the great stock market crash on a late summer day, September 10, 1929. His parents, Doris and Milfred "Deacon" Palmer, lived beside the sixth tee of the Latrobe Country Club, in a small and simple but cozy house. So young Arnie has never been far from the game, nor has the game ever been very far from him. He still remembers leaning against a tree in that green backyard, a holster hugging his hip, and aiming his toy cap gun at a sand ditch in the distance. It was Ladies Day at the club. Even back then, you can be sure he hit the target.
His father, affectionately nicknamed Deacon, was the club's head groundskeeper and later golf pro and course superintendent. The elder Palmer's tenure at Latrobe stretched a remarkable span of fifty-five years, running until his death in 1976. Throughout his long run, Deacon had a knack for keeping things sharp and crisp, but the greatest testimony of his work was to be found in the form and success of his son.
"My psychologist was my father," Arnold once mused, "and he never went to college." Of course, his dad offered more than just advice. He first gave him clubs, an old cut-down set, at the tender age of four. There is nothing to suggest the boy was a prodigy, but he began to swing early and swing often. By all accounts, he was good, a natural talent. By the age of eleven, he was caddying. And playing. And watching. And learning and asking questions. By the time he left on September 7, 1947, for Wake Forest University on a golf scholarship, Arnold had held nearly every job a kid could hold at Latrobe. Deacon's parting words were characteristically simple and straightforward: "Be tough, boy. Go out and play ... play your own game. If you start listening to other people's [advice], I have a job pushing a lawn mower here ... you can come back and do that."
When Arnold looks out the windows of his house or office or walks the course at Latrobe, he can't help but remember the times he spent on the greens with his father. On the occasion of his eightieth birthday, he spent a day with a reporter from USA Today. His memory was razor sharp, right down to recalling the exact spot of a lesson borne of a fallen oak tree. Pointing to its location, a picturesque slice of earth on the edge of a green hill, Palmer began to tell the story:
The trunk was rotten—I'll never forget this. A bunch of honeybees had moved in. Have you ever seen a honeycomb? Well, this one was full of honey. I mean, absolutely like that! [He spread his great hands like an exaggerating fisherman.] And my dad says, "Now, Arnie, we're going to take this honey home and give it to your mother, and we're going to eat it." But he says, "We've got to get two five-pound bags of sugar. When we take the honey out, we're going to put those two bags of sugar right there, so the bees can have their food...." I was about seven or eight years old.
To know Arnold Palmer is to know a man who took his late father's lesson of that memorable day to heart. He is a man who gives back, a generous soul eager and inclined to give away far more than he receives. As the reporter who walked the course with him on that day concluded, by his advice and actions with those bees seven decades ago, Deacon Palmer taught his son a simple but wonderfully practical lesson: "When you take the honey out, put some sugar back in."
Happy to Be Home
Happy is the person, a wise man once wrote, who still loves as an adult something he loved in childhood; time has not torn him in two. The same might be said of my good friend. Sitting and talking with Arnold Palmer in his home office, watching him swivel and rock gingerly in the tall chair behind an eight-foot-long antique wooden desk, is to watch a man very much at peace with himself and comfortable with the many loves of his life. It is an unusual thing, isn't it, to have accomplished so much, to have gone so far, and yet to return and be content spending the twilight of your career only steps from where you were born. Where others might be struck with wanderlust, thinking the next stop of the journey will be better than the last, Palmer is satisfied to stay close to home.
Visit Arnold Palmer's hometown and talk with its residents, and it quickly becomes clear that the local boy who made good set down roots that ran deep. He watered them daily and invested heartily in his hometown friends and neighbors. The legend looks beyond just the geographical boundaries, however, when assessing the tug toward home. "Your hometown is not where you're from," he's said. "It's who you are." Reporters regularly ask why he stays and continues to invest not only his time but his resources in the community. "I've done a lot of things and I will always have some connection here in Latrobe, or Pittsburgh, if you wish. I love this area. If the good Lord is willing, I'll be around here for a while to enjoy it some more." As Arnold Palmer enters his ninth decade of life, his prayers have been answered. This favorite son of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, is happy to be home.
And home is where he is happiest of all.
Chapter TwoLESSON 2
You Are What You Think
The plaque has hung on Arnold's office wall for years, but to the best of his memory, he doesn't recall when he received it or from whom. Until recently, he didn't even know who authored the beautifully engraved inspirational verses. Nevertheless, it's clear Arnold Palmer has taken them to heart.
The inscription is titled "The Man Who Thinks He Can," and it was written by a little-known poet from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by the name of Walter D. Wintle. The verses, with minor variations, have been widely quoted for years by entrepreneurs such as insurance magnate Napoleon Hill and automaker Henry Ford. Renowned preachers Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller have considered the poem—next to the Bible—to be foundational reading. The words hang in locker rooms all across America. The poem has been a favorite of at least two football coaching legends, Vince Lombardi and Penn State's iron horse, Joe Paterno. For Arnold Palmer, the thoughts in this poem have given rise to his approach to life, whether on the golf course, in the boardroom, or at his kitchen table. Here is Walter Wintle's poem:
The Man Who Thinks He Can
If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don't.
If you'd like to win, but you think you can't,
It's almost certain you won't.
If you think you'll lose, you've lost;
For out in the world you'll find
Success begins with a fellow's will;
It's all in the state of mind.
If you think you are outclassed, you are;
You've got to think high to rise.
You've got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But sooner or later the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can.
Whether you think you can or can't, you are probably right. AUTOMAKER HENRY FORD
My time with Arnold Palmer has made clear many things, but none more so than the fact that he embodies a quiet sense of confidence and strength. He lives and breathes these words. Through the years, there may have been stronger or longer hitters, better chippers, or more consistent putters on the PGA Tour, and in a career that stretched over four decades, others might have had a better year now and again. But year in and year out, Palmer always believed he was capable of coming out on top in each and every tournament he entered. "I've always made a total effort, even when the odds seemed entirely against me," he's said. "I never quit trying; I never felt that I didn't have a chance to win."
Still, he never was, nor is, a braggart. If confidence is courage at ease, this Pennsylvania native has always seemed to exude a beautiful sense of serenity, both on and off the course. Ask him how he does it, and he'd suggest the qualities are borne of preparation, hard work, repetition, and a firm belief in having fun playing aggressively to win. Sounds pretty simple, but how did he get there? Is a man born a confident star? Is there really such a thing as a self-made man? Over the years, in different venues and in different forms, I've asked him those very questions.
"Well, I suppose you could say that I became motivated by reading these words [Wintle's] almost daily," he replied, "and they began to resonate with my thoughts that I can really do whatever I put my mind to, whether it's with my golfing aspirations or anything else for that matter."
Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. LOU HOLTZ
Though he was speaking about the pursuit of excellence in golf, his philosophy translates into every area of life. "Ninety-five percent of the game is from the shoulders upwards," he offered on one occasion. He's right. People laughed when the legendary Yogi Berra observed that "baseball is 90 percent mental; the other half is physical." Yogi might have a problem with math, but he understands what Arnold Palmer preaches, and he's aware how important it is to believe in yourself. If you're going to succeed, if you're going to accomplish great things, you have to be in the right frame of mind—and you can't start soon enough. As he does on a regular basis, Arnold insists you must find the right message that inspires you to take action today toward your worthy ideal of tomorrow.
A Committed State of Mind
The Leadville Trail 100 Ultramarathon, also called "The Race Across the Sky," is a remarkable endurance running event held every summer in the mountains of western Colorado. Fewer than half of the runners who enter every year actually finish the 100-mile trek within the thirty-hour time limit. The course is brutal. Throughout the ordeal, runners climb and descend a total of 15,600 feet from a minimum elevation of 9,200 feet to a maximum of 12,620. For flatlanders, that's some rarified air, to be sure!
The race's founder, Ken Chlouber, is a beloved character, known as much for his affinity for endurance racing as he is for his popular annual pep talks before the competition. Gathering the entrants in the predawn dark each year, Chlouber uses a style that is both humorous and pointed. "You're all crazy!" he tells entrants. "We'll tell you when to start and we'll tell you when to stop. In between, don't think, just keep running." Those gathered laugh nervously, but soon Ken settles in for the punch line. "You're better than you think you are," he hollers. "You can do more than you think you can."
Most of us perform beneath our level of energy. ARCHBISHOP FULTON J. SHEEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC APOLOGIST
Arthur Gordon, an author and former editor of Guideposts magazine, once told the story of a British mountain climber. The adventurer would regularly find himself in positions where he couldn't go back down, so steep and dangerous was the climb. But he added that every now and again, he would purposely put himself in danger. Why? How did he get himself out of the predicament? "When there's nowhere to go but up," he offered, "you jolly well go up."
The Power of Repetition
Radio commentator Paul Harvey used to say, somewhat jokingly, "Repetition is effective. Repetition is effective. Repetition is effective." Golfer Gary Player has been linked with similar advice, noting that the more a person practices, the "luckier" they seem to get. Arnold Palmer would agree that when it comes to learning a new skill or perfecting an old one, daily repetition is the greatest secret of all. Whether in golf or any other pursuit, beginning is half done.
Repetition penetrates even the dullest of minds. LEGENDARY GOLF INSTRUCTOR DAVID LEADBETTER
But while "beginning" and "doing" will take you places, it should go without saying that you need to know where you want to land. I once heard about a famous sculptor who chiseled stone for days. "What are you making?" someone finally asked him. "I really don't know," he replied. "I haven't seen the plans."
We must visualize our goal. Flexibility is crucial, but planning is critical. Discipline is not always doing the same thing the same way; sometimes it's finding a different way to arrive at the same result. Through the process of hearing affirming words and forming inspiring thoughts, over and over again, you begin to program the positive course that makes you feel that you can do what you set out to accomplish. You begin to believe that God has a plan for your life and that he really does care about the details, however small some of them may seem to others.
A word of warning: Negative and cynical thinking might come so naturally that you're hardly even aware of just how downbeat your thoughts have become. I'd encourage you to try a little exercise. When something happens, whether expected or unexpected, examine your initial reaction. Do you immediately think the worst? Maybe it's time for some adjustments. Instead of saying, "I hope," why not substitute "I will"? Or rather than lamenting, "It's a big problem," how about, "It's a big opportunity"? One of my favorite exercises comes from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, whose legendary simplicity was part of his genius. "Take the 't' off the 'can't,'" he'd say. And marvelous things will happen.
Arnold Palmer is a man who has practiced that principle his whole life, because he's a man who believes that "whether you think you can or can't, you are probably right."
Chapter ThreeLESSON 3
Tell Me That I Am Ready
Late one evening, I was taking a few swings on the back of the driving range at Bay Hill, a private teeing ground designated for Academy lessons and Tour professional members. The facility is housed inside Arnold Palmer's Orlando resort, a short drive from our family's home. As I reached down to set up my next ball, Mr. Palmer drove up in a golf cart, his beloved golden retriever, Prince, sitting beside him. We greeted one another warmly. The "King" then proceeded to throw down his personal shag bag, which was filled with new monogrammed Callaway golf balls.
Even after all these years, it's still fun to share a driving range with a star. Our games might be a mile apart, but to stand side by side with a legend who's doing the same thing you are, although admittedly much better, is still a rare and wonderful treat. Arnold began his practice session by striking a few eight irons to a target green 150 yards away. He was as pure and accurate as if he were driving a car rather than a ball. Thinking ahead to a seminar I was scheduled to conduct for a group of PGA professionals, I couldn't help but seize the opportunity to ask a few questions.
"Mr. Palmer," I began, "in your mind, what's the most important thing that I can do in coaching a good player?"
Excerpted from Mentored by the King by Brad Brewer Paul J. Batura Copyright © 2010 by Brad Brewer. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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