Well, it’s finally April, and for millions of earnest believers, that means one thing: Easter. It’s a time of tradition. Kids excitedly rifle through their Easter baskets and search for prize-filled eggs hidden all over the local park. Parents will get the family ready in their Sunday best, and the masses will file into churches across the world. It’s a time many look forward to all year, and I get it. If you remove the holiday from its metaphor and iconography, it’s fundamentally a celebration of renewal, hope, redemption, and the power of unconditional love. Regardless of where one falls on the spectrum of faith, I think we can all benefit from a little more of those things in our lives.
But for me, there’s one thing in April that is a tradition unlike any other: The Masters Golf Tournament. And if you’ve ever walked the grounds of Augusta, you too know that it’s a sacred place, a duffer’s heaven on earth. When I think about love, and the notion of loving yourself and loving others the same way, I don’t have to go back two millennia or two continents over. We have such a wonderful example in our own backyard of Latrobe, PA. I’m talking about the late Arnold Palmer.
Commonly referred to as the King of Golf, I never met Mr. Palmer. I did come within ten feet of him one time at the Bruno’s Memorial Classic in Birmingham, Alabama. His chauffeured golf cart came scooting by, and I’ll never forget his healthy tan, contagious smile, and the joy in his eyes.
Arnold Palmer’s love and sincere appreciation of his fans and followers—known affectionately as “Arnie’s Army”—was so apparent. His genuine interaction and engagement, his kind words, and his meticulous signature all evidence of his loving and caring ethos. His conversation was always so positive, encouraging, complimentary, and uplifting. His philanthropy, his charities, and hospitals continue to live on today. Even watching him on television, you could feel this man’s love for others. He exuded it.
I never read or heard it said that he was self-centered in any way, or that he “loved” himself. But, that’s just it. He didn’t have to talk the talk. He lived it; walked the walk. The Arnold Palmer I remember, despite all of his worldly fame and fortunes, never got into trouble with the law, never took advantage of his celebrity, and never let his well-earned blessings change the way he treated people. Police were never called out to his home for disorderly conduct or domestic violence. He didn’t have demons he was constantly having to fend off. He didn’t embarrass himself or his family name. He didn’t make excuses, he didn’t live in judgment, and he didn’t live with drama.
He lived his life with love, honor, and respect, for himself as much as for others. What a beautiful epithet to be said of anyone. We’d all be lucky to have led such a life.
There have been a lot of notable kings throughout history, most from days gone by. This month, as the Azaleas reach their peak and the fairways turn to green, I think I’ll pledge my allegiance and stick with Arnold Palmer. He’s one king to whom I can truly relate.