The golf world mourned when Arnold Palmer passed away last September at the age of 87. Known simply as “The King” to his legion of fans, Palmer is not only one of the greatest players in the history of golf, but he is also one of the sport’s most important figures.
A humble, good-natured fellow who was the son of the greenskeeper at Latrobe Country Club, Palmer popularized the sport among the nation’s working class, just as televised sports began to blossom. “Arnie’s Army” followed him to tournaments across the country, hanging on every shot as he engaged in epic battles with the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Not only did Palmer capture seven major championships, 62 PGA Tour tournaments and more than 90 total professional events, but in retirement he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
In the weeks and months since his passing, Palmer’s life has been celebrated with moving tributes at events such as the Ryder Cup, The Masters, and at his own annual tournament, the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
Missing from all of the recent tributes and documentaries is Palmer’s tie to Bucknell. And it happened 50 years ago today — Wednesday, May 10, 1967.
Only a few weeks removed from a fourth-place finish at The Masters, Palmer came to Lewisburg to conduct a clinic at the Bucknell Golf Club and to be the guest of honor at the annual Achievement in Sports awards dinner, sponsored by the Susquehanna Valley Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
The ceremony was held in Davis Gym, emceed by John Zeller, with awards handed out to many local high school and college athletes from the area. In addition, special awards were presented to former Penn State football coach Rip Engle, former Bucknell and Green Bay Packers football great Clarke Hinkle, and the family of the legendary Christy Mathewson.
This was Palmer’s first major public appearance in the area, and he was accompanied by his wife, Winnie, and his parents. Prior to the awards dinner, Palmer conducted a clinic at the Bucknell Golf Club, where he was joined by first-year varsity golf coach Brad Tufts, head professional and former coach Harold Evans, members of the newly crowned Middle Atlantic Conference championship team, and scores of club members and other onlookers.
Tufts, a Bucknell Athletics Hall-of-Famer who also served as the school’s sports information director among other duties, recalls Palmer being extremely generous with his time, despite an unseasonably cold afternoon for the middle of May.
Palmer signed autographs, demonstrated various shots, and even showed off a bit by skimming a few shots across the pond in front of the 12th green.
Remembrances of Palmer will surely keep coming throughout this year and beyond, but we figured the 50-year anniversary of his visit to Bucknell would be a good time to share the story of our time with The King.
Enjoy some photos from May 10, 1967.