Arnold Palmer shares tee time, tea time on Page 2

Wed, Sep 1

Arnold Palmer is many things. He's a legendary golf champion. He's an astute businessman. He's a delicious beverage.

The Arnold Palmer, an iced tea/lemonade mix, went from a made-upon-request concoction he's been drinking for more than 40 years to big business, sold in stores across the country with his name and signature on the bottle.

Page 2 spoke to Palmer -- the man, the drink, the legend -- from his home in Latrobe, Pa., where we asked for the recipe to the drink's success.

"It started in my kitchen at my house in Latrobe. It was a hot day, and my wife gave me some iced tea, and I thought, 'Let me try something,'" Palmer said. "I filled about one-third of the glass with lemonade in the iced tea, and it was wonderful."

Palmer said he started drinking it frequently and began asking waitresses to make it in restaurants or bars when he was traveling.

The legend started in Palm Springs, Calif., when he ordered the drink according to his specifications, and a nearby customer overheard. She told the waitress, "I want a Palmer," he said.

"People in Palm Springs started asking for a 'Palmer,' and it spread from there," he said. And Palmer, who has business interests ranging from golf course design to a car dealership, finally capitalized.

It became a phenomenon since the AriZona Beverage Company launched the ready-made version (called "Arnold Palmer Tee," wink, wink) nationwide. The company says it's more of a 50/50 tea-lemonade mix, rather than the golfer's original experiment, but it's obviously found a market. The company says it sells about $50 million of the stuff annually.

Like George Foreman or John Madden, future generations might ultimately know him more for his brand name than for his sporting achievements, something Palmer said he realizes.

"It's a pleasant surprise," he said.

The drink has dozens of Facebook fan pages, the largest of which has more than 180,000 fans, while the fan page for Arnie the golfer has 3,375.

"Right here in Latrobe, in the old Rolling Rock brewery, there's a line producing 700 cans a minute, 24 hours a day," he said.

Palmer's still looking out for his Army, getting the word out about an issue dear to his heart. He's promoting, a resource for prostate cancer patients and their families. Palmer was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1996 and beat the disease after it was detected early. "People can live a very full life having had it," he said. "I was very fortunate that my doctor kept me up to speed. He kept me well-informed, and that's what we're trying to do."