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Arnold Palmer to girl at reception desk: "I understand you have a message for me."
Girl at reception desk to Arnold Palmer: "I may have, sir. What's your name?"
This is a true story; it happened last week at the Houston Open, about 4,000 miles from Houston in a tangle of trees and condominiums that is the aptly named Woodlands Country Club. It was just another of those $200,000 tournaments the touring pros play every week, this one won by Lee Elder, the second victory of his career.
Palmer made modern tournament golf what it is today, and he will always be Arnold Palmer, whether or not girls at reception desks recognize him, but he was in Houston knowing he probably couldn't win, so there were only two logical reasons for his presence: he still likes to hit golf balls and he knows what his name means to a sponsor. Same old Arnold, spreading himself like mayo.
Going into Houston the following things were true of Palmer in the year of the Bicentennial:
2. He had earned only $4,697.29 in prize money, which placed him 157th on the money list.
3. He had not won on American soil in more than three years.
4. He had contributed to the gallows humor of golf when, failing to qualify for the Tournament of Champions, which he once won three times in five years, he participated in the Tallahassee Open, a sort of satellite event.