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In Arnold Palmer's museum of an office in Latrobe, Pa., there's a great deal of presidential golfing memorabilia, dating to 1958, when Eisenhower briefly met Palmer, didn't recognize him as the reigning Masters champion and later wrote him to apologize for the slight. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.
There are letters from presidents, photographs, scorecards—and a golf bag with Eisenhower's clubs. There are golf-related photographs of Palmer with Eisenhower, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton, but none with JFK, who is generally regarded as the most natural of the golfing presidents. He competed on the golf team at Harvard. Palmer and Kennedy never met. Palmer has been a Republican all his life. His father, Deacon, who helped build Latrobe (Pa.) Country Club, "was a Roosevelt Democrat," Palmer said. "He thought Roosevelt saved the world."
Here is Arnold Palmer's analysis of JFK's swing 48 years after the fact.
On his scheduled golf game with JFK
"In '63 I was scheduled to play with him in Palm Beach, I think at the Palm Beach Country Club. But then I got a call that he couldn't play, that his back was bad. So that was that. I never knew about these films he had made. When was it, summer of '63? I remember that summer. [He shakes his head.] I lost a U.S. Open [to Julius Boros] for a second straight year in a playoff."
On JFK's wardrobe
"Blue shirt, pink pants. That's a good combination. I've had plenty of pink shirts and some pink sport coats. No pink pants. He has his shirttail out, but this is casual golf. I never played shirttail out, but it came out a lot. I wonder why he's wearing sunglasses? I don't remember him wearing glasses. That was unusual then."
On JFK's setup
"He looks pretty good over the ball, pretty solid. But he needs to firm up his arms."
On JFK's backswing