Jack Nicklaus gives touching speech at Arnold Palmer memorial service

Phil Mickelson and other members of the Ryder Cup team attend service for golfing legend, who died in late September age 87

A farewell to the King turned somber when Jack Nicklaus, his voice cracking as a large tear formed in his left eye, urged the elite and the everyman to remember how Arnold Palmer touched their lives and please dont forget why.

I hurt like you hurt, Nicklaus said. You dont lose a friend of 60 years and not feel an enormous loss.

The service Tuesday at Saint Vincent College in Palmers hometown was filled with as much laugh and warmth from tales of the most significant figure in modern golf. Virtually 1,000 golf dignitaries from around the world, referred to by former LPGA Commissioner Charlie Mechem as the elite brigade of Arnies Army, crammed into the basilica.

Some 4,000 others headed to remote sites across the college to watch. Long lines of traffic formed two hours before the service began.

Palmer died on 25 September in Pittsburgh at age 87 as he was preparing for heart surgery. His household had a private funeral Thursday and would like to request that a public service be held after the Ryder Cup so no one would be left out.

We were seeming down at the air strip and the fog simply abruptly lifted, Ernie Els said after landing in one of several private airplanes that descended on Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe. This is a beautiful day. Weve all gratified different people in life. He was a man who didnt change. It didnt matter if you cut the grass or you were a chairwoman. He was the same with everybody. He was just … he was the man.

Palmer won 62 periods on the PGA Tour, including seven major championships. He inspired the modern version of the Grand Slam by going over to the British Open and inducing it important in the eyes of Americans again. He was a captain twice in the Ryder Cup, and the gold trophy the Americans won Sunday at Hazeltine sat on a table for guests to see as they took their seats.

But this service was more about the lives Palmer touched than the tournaments he won.

In the large portrait at the front of the stage, Palmer wasnt holding a golf club or a trophy. It was just the King and that insouciant grin that stimulated everyone feel like they were friends, even if they had never met.

Have there been better golfers? Perhaps, but not many. Has anyone done more for video games? No one has come even close, former R& A chief Peter Dawson said. Is there a finer human being? I havent gratified one yet.

Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson and a few other members of the US team were there. So was the generation before them, Tom Watson and Curtis Strange, Lee Trevino and Mark OMeara. Dozens of others were there, along with the heads of every major golf organisation. All of them alternately smiled and wiped away the occasional tear.

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said he had known Palmer since 1957 Finchem was 10 that year because when you assured him play, it was the same thing as meeting him. He said Palmer brought so many people to golf because of his attacking style, his television appeal and how he carried himself.

Jack Nicklaus at the memorial service. Photo: ddp USA/ REX/ Shutterstock

He had this other thing, Finchem said. It was the unbelievable they are able to construct you feel good not just about him, but about yourself. I was astonished by how people responded to him. He took energy from that and turned right around and dedicated it back.

Mechem, the former LPGA commissioner who became one of Palmers closest consultants, set the tone for the service by asking the crowd to remember the image of Palmer strolling up the 18 th fairway, hitching up his pants and dedicating a thumbs-up. Still, a touch of sadness was inevitable.

Theres an old saying that there are no irreplaceable people, Mechem said, his voice cracking toward the end of the ceremony. Whoever stimulated that line didnt know Arnold Palmer. There will never be another.

Among the more poignant tributes was Palmers grandson, Sam Saunders, who plays on the PGA Tour.

There wasnt a big difference between the man you assured on TV and the man we knew at home, Saunders said.

Saunders grew up calling him Dumpy because thats what his older sister said when trying to call him Grumpy. The name stuck. Thats how Saunders had Palmer listed in his telephone, and he used that number more periods than he could remember.

The last call was a week ago Sunday at 4.10 pm, shortly before Palmer died.

He answered on the first ring. He was in the hospital preparations for surgery the next morning, Saunders said. He told me to take care of my babies, my entire household. I intend to do that and construct him proud. I told him I loved him. He told me he loved me back. That was the last thing we said to each other, and I will cherish that the rest of my life. And Ill take the best piece of advice he gave me, to talk less and listen more.

Palmers co-pilot, Pete Luster, flew Palmers plane over Saint Vincent College for nearly an hour before the service. The mob assembled outside the basilica when it was over to watch Luster fly overhead and tip the wing.

He stimulated one more pass in the plane tail number N1AP and then rose upward until it vanished behind a large, white cloud.

Higher. Faster. Thats how Palmer used to fly, thats how he used to play. Thats how he lived.

He was the monarch of our sport, Nicklaus said. And he always will be.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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