For Bob Lendzion, the journey has always been more important than the destination. Even in 1972, when Lendzion, who's now a 52-year-old rookie on the Senior tour, returned to Los Angeles after spending the summer as an instructor at the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy in Stratton Mountain, Vt., he and his college roommate, Rex Caldwell, made sure the trip home would be memorable by hitchhiking, golf bags and all, with a couple of important stops along the way. "Hell, we didn't want to spend any money," Caldwell says. "That was the whole point." During the trip they slept at rest areas and lived on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and off the kindness of strangers. Their first stop was in Rochester, N.Y., for a few rounds at Oak Hill, and then they headed for Latrobe (Pa.) Country Club, home course of Arnold Palmer and the closest thing golf has to Graceland.
They got as far as the outskirts of Latrobe on a chilly evening in September and, with no place to sleep, camped out for the night in an open boxcar on a railroad siding. When a train rumbled by on an adjacent track at three in the morning, "it sounded as if it was going to run us over," Lendzion says. Numb, they rose early and hitched a ride to Palmer Drive, where they figured the country club must be. As they walked through a residential neighborhood at the crack of dawn, they passed a woman picking up the newspaper in her driveway. "Can I help you guys?" she asked.
"No," Lendzion said. "We're just looking for the golf course."
"It's over there," the woman said, pointing toward the club, "but can I help you?"
"No, no," Lendzion insisted. "We're on our way to the tee."
"The course doesn't open until eight o'clock," the woman said. "Are you sure I can't help you?"
Finally, they told her they were instructors from the Palmer Golf Academy, had met Palmer that summer and had received permission to play Latrobe.
"Well," the woman said, "let me see if Arnie is up." It was Winnie Palmer, his wife.
A few moments later Palmer walked out in his bathrobe. He listened to Lendzion and Caldwell's story and smiled. "Have you guys had breakfast yet?" Palmer asked.
They said no. "Then come on in," he said.