Tom Watson says his hero Arnold Palmer gave him dream of becoming pro golfer

RIDGEDALE, MO. - The Legends of Golf Tournament celebrates 40 years this week. It's the fourth consecutive edition to be hosted by Bass Pro Shops at Big Cedar Lodge.

“We're so glad it's found a home here,” said two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw in early March.

One of Crenshaw's competitors on both the Champions Tour and PGA Tour, Tom Watson, spoke Wednesday at Big Cedar Lodge while practicing on the driving range designed by his hero, Arnold Palmer.

“I had a chance when I was 15 years old to play with Arnold Palmer at an exhibition in Kansas City - Brookridge Country Club,” said Watson. You could just imagine. He was in his heyday – 1965. And Jack Nicklaus was the villain (laughs). I didn't like Jack because he was beating Arnie, my hero.

"But I had a chance to play with Arnie. He couldn't have been any nicer to me and he treated me with respect as a golfer and I think that gave me the dream of becoming a professional golfer because I had the chance to be with Arnold Palmer and play with him (as a 15-year-old).”

If you're wondering how that first round with Arnie went, it wasn't so bad for Watson. The general population would call it their greatest day of golf, actually.

“I tied him on the front nine but he got me by six shots in the back.”

The Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf Tournament isn't just a celebration of Watson's contemporaries, it's a celebration of life and nature, all with a heavy influence of Arnold Palmer.

All throughout the golf facilities, museums and shops at Big Cedar Lodge stands one prevalent influence: “The King”.

I asked Watson to explain for a younger generation what made “The King” Arnold Palmer so great to be around and at the same time, have such a strong impact on golf in America.

“The way he treated people and the way he loved the game — he loved the game so much,” said Watson. “I said it at his funeral: there has never been a greater friend to golf than Arnold Palmer. And I think that's true.”

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 or reach him by email 

© 2017 KSDK-TV


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