Boyd Relives Favorite Palmer Moment
Arnold Palmer celebrated his 80th birthday Sept. 10, and the United States Golf Association printed a book commemorating the occasion.
A selected group of individuals who had enjoyed special moments with "the King" were asked to contribute.
Stephen Boyd, who formerly worked under Director Peter Stilwell in business development and external relations at Pinehurst Resort, was among those asked to share a memory. His account, which appears in the published book, follows:
I came home for lunch one afternoon, and was just about to take a bite when the phone rang.
"Hi, Steve, this is Doc Giffin. Arnold wants to come to Pinehurst."
I could have responded like anyone might at first, when they think there's a joker on the other end. But I recognized Doc's voice right away and realized this was no joke!
"When?" I responded as I pushed myself away from the table. "What does he want to do?"
"I don't know," Doc says. "Why don't you ask him?" There was a slight pause, and I think I took advantage of the moment to straighten my posture.
"Hi, Steve, how are you?" (There he was on the line! Arnold Palmer is on my telephone waiting for me to speak, and I can hardly believe it!)
Getting right to the point, he explained that he wanted to visit Pinehurst and bring his finanee, Kit. He wanted her to see everything and share some special memories with her, but he didn't plan to play golf. He went on to say he and his Dad used to stay at the Manor Inn when he was a youth, and asked if it would be possible to stay there. (I'm thinking to myselfwhat do you mean, "is it possible?" You're Arnold Palmer, "The King!" At Pinehurst, there's no such thing as "No Can Do!" for you, Sir!)
After a few more details, we wrapped it up, and it wasn't until after I heard him say, "OK then, I'll see you in the morning," that I realized I wasn't dreaming. I was just home for lunch, and I looked forward to the afternoon and getting started on the arrangements.
The following morning, he landed his plane right on schedule at our local airport. It was a beautiful day, and they both looked rested and happy. After shaking his hand and being introduced to Kit, I went right over to assist with the luggage and couldn't miss the fact that his golf clubs were being off-loaded. (Oh no! Did I misunderstand?) Surprised, I turned around and acknowledged, "Mr. Palmer, I've made no arrangements for golf!"
"Oh, that's OK, Steve. I'm not playing golf. But, you know, I just can't come to Pinehurst without my clubs!"
As we walked toward the car, I smiled to myself, thinking about his response. Luggage secured, I suggested they follow me into town. He perked right up and said, "Oh no, you ride with us!"
(Did I happen to mention that this was Arnold Palmer?)
On the short drive to the village, he started to point out a number of spots he remembered, and then asked me to pipe in and offer a tour along the way. Not hesitating, I obliged ... tours are my specialty. So, there we were ... me sharing a bit of history with them, and he intermittently sharing fond memories with both of us. I felt complimented to be included, and although the atmosphere was very comfortable ... for me, it was exciting at the same time.
As we drove along, it occurred to me that I was experiencing, firsthand, what I had read in golf magazines and heard commentators and media folks mention on numerous occasions about being around him that rare quality he possesses that so many in the limelight seem to lack Approachability. I was reminded of a quote I'd once heard, and it applied to the moment.
"Everyone is comfortable with the person who has class, because he is comfortable with himself."
Once they were settled in at the Manor, we agreed to meet at the Holly Inn at 6:30 that evening. Seating at The Tavern is first-come, first-served, so I arrived early to "table sit." At just around that time, I watched them as they strolled down the driveway toward the outdoor patio where I had been waiting. I took notice of the surrounding tables as folks began to recognize him. I don't think it would be inaccurate to describe the response to his entrance as "pontifical." Initially, there was a stunned hush, later punctuated with audible whispers. "Oh my gosh, that's Arnold Palmer!" "Holy cow, is that 'The King'? Needless to say, it gave me great pleasure to know that their immediate destination was no further than the table at which I sat. I stood up to welcome them.
Once they were seated, I remained standing, and prior to taking my leave, wished them a pleasant evening. Mr. Palmer was very gracious, and quickly invited me to join them, saying, "No, please stay and have dinner with us."
It just seemed natural that they should spend this time alone together. "Thanks, Mr. Palmer," I said, "but this evening is for the two of you. I'll see you in the morning. Have a pleasant night."
"Well then," he insisted, "How about at least a drink!" I couldn't refuse. And as the waiter placed my Kettle One on the rocks in front of me, I mused to myself. (Wow! This'll be one drink I'll remember for a long time! Cheers, Mr. Palmer!)
That night as I lay in bed just starting to drift off, I tried to recall a previous time in my life when I experienced a day filled with such anticipation and personal excitement.
At 8:30 the following morning, like clockwork, Mr. Palmer and Kit walked up the brick path leading from the Manor up to the front entrance of The Carolina.
It was pleasing to observe the respect and space being extended by employees and guests, as they made their way through the lobby to the dining room. No one interrupted their pace to request autographs or photographs. There were only tacit greetings of acknowledgement here and there a few nodding heads, smiling waves, and a salute or two.
Taking our seats, it was easy to see he was looking forward to the famous breakfast buffet, as he said, "I don't want to miss anything!" There was little doubt he enjoyed it all, having returned to the groaning board a number of times!
After breakfast, Mr. Palmer led the way as we traversed the historic photo-lined hallway of the Carolina Hotel. It was evident that this particular portion of their visit was truly a stroll down memory lane, as he, himself, was the center focus in many of the archival images prominently featured on the walls. Perhaps the perfect ending to the nostalgic trip he had intended for Kit.
Mr. Palmer, for over 40 years, my life's work has been engaged in serving others. From the time I was a young man in the hotel business, through my years in management with American Airlines, and finally in the hospitality/golf industry at Pinehurst Resort, I have had the good fortune to have met and interacted with a broad range of individuals from Royals to infamous felons. And, although at risk of sounding a bit awestruck within the text of this memoir, it pleases me to have an opportunity to express what a pleasure it is to know you; and on those occasions when needed, it was always a privilege to have been able to "walk inside the ropes" of your life.
The personal satisfaction and reward I have reaped from our professional association ranks high within the treasure trove of my personal memories. Over the years you have been dubbed, "The King." My observations glean it is a title well deserved, not only for your undisputed talent within the wonderful world of golf, but also for the sincere qualities of human kindness and equanimity you have reflected throughout your life. That being said, I remain at your service!
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