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EXCUSE ME, MR. PALMER, SIR
George Plimpton
October 14, 1968
Professional golf has two almost mythic personalities, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. What happens when a celebrated author, a man who has Interviewed some of the world's famous figures, resolves to talk with two such personages? Is there a right—or wrong—way to approach them, to question them? Can he do it without emerging the perfect fool...?
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October 14, 1968

Excuse Me, Mr. Palmer, Sir

Professional golf has two almost mythic personalities, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. What happens when a celebrated author, a man who has Interviewed some of the world's famous figures, resolves to talk with two such personages? Is there a right—or wrong—way to approach them, to question them? Can he do it without emerging the perfect fool...?

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"How about your own?" someone asked Nicklaus.

He said that if things were going right, oh, he'd go out a certain door, and turn around a corner and head through this door, then that, and, of course, he'd take the same route to the golf course and he'd keep to the same breakfast if his game was going strong.

"How about clothes?" I asked.

He said: "In 1962, the year I came onto the tour, just out of Ohio State, I'm telling you that you'd have found a better dressed guy out of a refugee camp than I was; I was some sort of bad dresser. In the Open I was wearing a pair of $12 retail pants, iridescent olive-green-blue—like the belly color of a bottle fly. I got to thinking they were good-luck pants. In those days you played 36 holes on the last day. Terrific heat that year. I'm telling you...." He turned the coffee cup in his hand. "I found out that superstition wasn't all you had to think about. You had to think about how you looked. There were those guys who'd come up who knew—I mean, they wanted to tell you that for, hell, for sanitary reasons you couldn't wear the same trousers day after day. They had these pained expressions, but that was because they didn't quite know how to come up to a guy and say, 'Hey, listen, you got to change your pants.' Well, I didn't. When I came out for a playoff against Arnold, well, I wasn't going to change those pants that day. And I won. That was one good pair of pants."

Everyone around the table laughed.

"Of course, every year I carry a buckeye," he said.

"I've never known what that is—a buckeye," I admitted. "Other than the state symbol for Ohio."

"It's a poisonous nut," Nicklaus said.

"Oh."

"Squirrels won't fool with it. It's nothing. But I'll tell you what is good for me. The songs are helpful."

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