Getting up and down
Tom Kite's recent experiences covered the emotional gamut
Late September and early October was an emotional time for Tom Kite, as the World Golf Hall of Famer was saddened by the death of Arnold Palmer and elated by the U.S. victory in the Ryder Cup, an event he captained once and played in seven times.
“It was a shock for everybody,” Kite said about Palmer, who died Sept. 25 at the age of 87. “He was being taken in for heart tests and died two days later. Nobody was expecting it at this time.”
Palmer’s death also had an impact at the Ryder Cup in suburban Minneapolis a week later as the golfing great was remembered by fans, players, coaches and the media. Kite was at Hazeltine National Golf Club to support the U.S. team that won the biennial event for only the third time in the past 10 matches. He credits a new U.S. attitude and task force to helping the Americans break through.
“Basically, the philosophy is, ‘get the players that are going to be on the team involved.’ It’s been kind of haphazardly run for a long, long time but it didn’t really matter because we were winning it all the time,” Kite said in early October at a golf outing at Coto de Caza that benefited the Speech and Language Development Center in Buena Park that raised $255,000. “Now, that’s changed, so changes needed to be made. It’s good to see that the initial results worked out so well.”
Kite, who also was in Orange County that week to play in the Toshiba Classic at Newport Beach Country Club, also touched on a few other topics, with Palmer remaining a heartfelt theme:
Q: How did Arnold Palmer affect you personally and professionally?
He had a huge impact. I was paired with Arnold during my second U.S. Open, in 1972 when I was still an amateur. He was terrific with me. He was very calming and made me feel like I belonged. It was a big reason why I finished in the top 20, despite being an amateur.
Q: Is it possible for other people to be like him on the course and in daily life?
You can’t duplicate his charisma. You can be nice to people and you can treat people with respect, but no one is on all the time … except Arnold. I never saw him quick or short with anybody. He was terrific. Trying to be like him is tough, but we all can be nice. That’s a simple thing to do, and it goes a long way.
Q: There are debates about who is the best golfer of all time, but was Palmer the most impactful?