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"I'm about 5,000 shots away from being right."
"But there's got to be a moment or so when you can relax."
"Sure," I said. "Absolutely."
Arnold Palmer was more difficult to see, and immeasurably more forbidding. I called him once on the phone. Someone else answered and said he was not available. I heard the murmur of voices in the background, a loud, sudden laugh and the clink of ice in glasses. The crowds were always there—even in his private quarters. As for his presence in public, a circle of people collected and moved along with him as soon as he appeared at the locker room door—the front runners of his Army, and they were with him at the end of his golfing day, accompanying him back to the locker room and standing around waiting once he had disappeared, as hopeful as dogs at a kitchen door, just in case he should turn up again.
I asked a sportswriter acquaintance if he had any suggestions as to how to interview Palmer, any hints as to what would make him, well, unwind, so that I could catch some essence of his charisma—that is, if I could get to him for an interview at all. The answer was not encouraging. Palmer had been asked everything, I was told. Questions seemed to bore him—the obvious ones to the point of annoyance. An interviewer, unless Palmer knew and appreciated him, had to be lucky to get much out of him beyond the usual platitudes.
Well, that certainly put me out of luck, I said, because I didn't know him, and as for being appreciated, my only credential was that I had trotted around in his Army.
My informant, however, did have one suggestion: "What makes Palmer unwind, to use your word," he said, "is to be asked something that really catches his fancy—a question out of the ordinary, something unexpected which he hasn't been asked before.
"For example," he said, "I asked him once, just offhand, about the rumors of odd deportment on the ladies' golf tour. You know, things like lesbianism. Well, that really sparked him; he stayed on that subject for nearly an hour."
"Oh," I said.