SENIOR PLAYERS NOTEBOOK: The First Tee honors Palmer's late father with endowment
July 1, 2012 4:15 AM
Co-leader Joe Daley tries to coax his putt into the cup on No. 6 Saturday at Fox Chapel Golf Club.
By Stephen J. Nesbitt Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Arnold Palmer has fond memories of Fox Chapel Golf Club.
Palmer, 82, grew up an hour away in Latrobe and won the 1957 West Penn Open at Fox Chapel by six strokes. He returned to Fox Chapel Saturday to honor his father, Milfred J. (Deacon) Palmer, the one who taught The King the game of golf.
The First Tee of Pittsburgh announced Saturday the establishment of the Deacon Palmer Endowment Fund.
The endowment will fund equipment and fees for life skills and golfing clinics for children in Western Pennsylvania.
It was a welcomed homecoming for Palmer, an honorary chairman for The First Tee, who said he was "flattered" by the announcement. Palmer said the program has allowed golf to become more accessible to a wider range of children and teaches a set of core values to educate young golfers.
At Fox Chapel for the Constellation Senior Players Championship, Palmer said the course appears to have hardly shifted since his West Penn Open victory in 1957.
"I was told that other than refining the golf course over the years and maybe adding a little distance to it, that it's much the same as it was in '57," Palmer said.
"That pleases me very much, obviously, because I always thought it was a great golf course.
"It may not be the longest golf course in the world and it may not be certain things, but it's a beautiful golf course. It has all the things that are necessary for a great championship."
Palmer said he would like to see the Constellation Senior Players Championship return to Fox Chapel every year.
"From my point of view, having won this championship twice, I would like to see Fox Chapel keep it for a while," he said.
"If they can keep the tournament here in Pittsburgh and keep adding to it, I think it'll get the support of the community."
Palmer isn't playing much golf himself anymore. He will hit balls with golfing buddies every once in a while. ("I'm not as enthusiastic as I once was about playing golf," he admitted.)
Instead, he focuses on his new 'Arnie' clothing line and a host of other business ventures.
Kenny Perry eyed his tee shot at the par-3 17th hole at Fox Chapel. He swung his 6-iron and liked how it felt.
The ball soared, dropped onto the front edge of the green and rolled into the center of the cup.
From 187 yards away, Perry watched his ball nick the flagstick and drop into the cup for the first hole in one of the tournament -- excluding the Pro-Am competition -- and Perry's first since last season.
He only knew the ball had gone into the hole once the crowd gathered around the 17th green roared.
"Well, 187 yards, that's a perfect 6-iron. Just a good number," Perry said. "Hit it nice and heard everybody yelling, so I assumed it was in the hole."
After three rounds, Perry is in a four-way for eighth place at 6-under 204.
The show goes on
While a Friday night thunderstorm ravaged the coast and wreaked enough havoc at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., site of the PGA AT&T National, the storm spared Fox Chapel. Officials at Congressional closed that course to fans Saturday.
Fox Chapel officials said the rain that fell on the Pittsburgh area Friday night amounted to only a few hundredths of an inch, and the course didn't require any repairs or debris cleanup.
After temperatures Friday peaked in the upper 90s, the heat backed off Saturday and made for enjoyable weather for the big crowd at Fox Chapel.
To one of the co-leaders in the clubhouse, the course was just perfect.
"It was perfect, wasn't near as hot as [Friday]," Mark Calcavecchia said.
"The greens were perfect, probably a little softer after the rain we had last night. But the course is there in perfect shape."