Friday marks the first round of the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf Tournament.
Before the legends officially tee it up, its three biggest names held an informal discussion, a town-hall style sit-down covering career memories, the state of the game and to cut right to the chase, whatever Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Trevino felt like discussing.This year's tournament is, of course, the first without an appearance by Arnold Palmer. Palmer's influence is seen year-round at the Big Cedar Lodge golf facilities. He became great friends with Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris.
Photos: Legends of Golf Tournament
Photos: Golf Legends in Branson
During Thursday's interview session, 77-year-old Trevino – a 1981 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee and winner of 29 PGA Tour events during his career – told the story of Arnie's last competitive shot of the final competitive round of golf.
It was a story not even Nicklaus and Player had heard.
"I played the last competitive round with Arnold Palmer, at Augusta Pines in Houston.
We went to the fourth hole, a par-three. Arnie hits one and he looks back at me and he says 'How close is that?'
I said, 'How close is what?'
And he was playing in the tournament - this is a senior tournament.
I said, 'What are you talking about 'how close is it?' The ball hit up on the bank and it rolled back in the water.'
He said, 'What?'
I said, 'It rolled back in the water.' I said, 'Arnie, the pin is on the right side. That's a tree you were shooting at over there.'
This is the gospel truth: he quit on that hole. He quit on that hole. He said, 'That's it. That's the last competitive shot I'll ever hit.'
I said, 'Let me get you a cart.'
He said, 'No. I'm going to finish the round. I'ver never walked off a golf course and I'm not about to start today.'
From that point, Trevino informed the scorekeepers and leaderboard operators to stop updating Palmer's scores. “The King” did in fact finish out the round, draining an eight-foot putt on 18.
“If I can say anything about Mr. Palmer: I loved the man. He was the most competitive guy I've ever met. He loved the game," said Trevino.
Trevino's sentiments for “Arnie” aren't anything new but they remain fresh all the same.
“The Black Knight” Gary Player added, “He fell out of bed with charisma. Some have to develop charisma. He had it. It was a divine gift. He loved golf but he also loved people and people loved him. And he had great patience with people.
At Augusta this year on the first tee with Jack and me, I was very choked because it affected me for almost 30 minutes I'll tell you why because Arnold was a great believer in good manners. He always took his hat off. He was well-mannered. I'd been friends with him for nearly sixty years. Arnold and I we argued, we cried together, but when you have friends like these guys for 50 years, 60 years, you're blessed.”
Player, also known as “Mr. Fitness”, lives a different life than his friend did, pointing out Palmer's enjoyment of eating whatever he wanted, drinking and smoking.
'I said to him before he died, 'You're like Tarzan. If I ate like you I would have been dead at 60!' I said, 'You're 87, you've had a great life, man, a phenomenal life! Are you scared of dying?'
And he said, 'No, I'm not scared of dying.'
And I just said, 'Well, thanks for the great friendship.' And I said 'I'm not coming to your funeral. I'm not traveling all the way from South Africa for one day and fly all the way back the next day and I don't want you to come to my funeral.' And I told Jack the same thing the other night at dinner.
Everybody makes such a fuss of death. It's a celebration. If you have a child that dies young, it's terribly tragic but Arnold had a great life!”
To put a cap on the Arnie memories, Trevino closed things out with an incredible one-liner met with uproarious laughter, “I think they should have a funeral before we die so we can see who the hell comes!”
Pat Imig is on-site at Big Cedar Lodge. Stay tuned to KSDK.com for more Legends of Golf updates throughout the week. Follow Pat on Twitter @patrickimig, Instagram @p_imig