Practicing his swing in his suite at the famous Brown Palace Hotel, he whacked a ball into the mantel. The resulting dent remains in what is now called the Eisenhower Suite.
Eisenhower’s buddy Palmer can’t recall the last time they played together. After the president left the White House, heart problems soon ended his days on the links.
“He used to call me up and say, ‘You know, Arnie, the doctors won’t let me play anymore, but come on up to [Eisenhower’s retirement farm in] Gettysburg for a visit,’ and we’d spend time talking about things we had in common.”
Such memories of their friendship linger for Palmer, who at 80 is two years older than Eisenhower was when he died in 1969. Palmer was a charter member of the Hall of Fame in 1974, although the current facility didn’t open its doors until 1998.
Eisenhower was selected unanimously in June in the lifetime-achievement category by the World Golf Foundation’s board of directors, which includes leading golf executives from around the globe. Other inductees next week will include Lanny Wadkins, Jose Maria Olazabal and Christy O’Connor, bringing the total number of inductees to 129.
Each new inductee will have his own exhibit featuring relevant personal and golf items, plus a locker in the Hall of Fame’s Member Locker Room and a handcrafted bronze-relief plaque displayed on the Hall’s Wall of Fame.
“This is the first time President Eisenhower was nominated by our international voting body, and he shot right to the top,” said Hall of Fame Chief Executive Jack Peter. “He is among a small group of extremely important, high-profile figures in history who contributed mightily to the health and growth of golf.”
Eisenhower also contributed mightily to a furor in Washington during the spring of 1953, when the White House announced he would skip throwing out the first ball on Opening Day of the baseball season at Griffith Stadium to play golf at Augusta National. Barely three months after his inauguration, the popular president was practically deemed a traitor by people who considered the ceremonial toss a sacrosanct sporting tradition.
Luckily for all concerned, the game was rained out, and the president made the rescheduled home opener a few days later. But he never apologized for putting golf first.
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