SPRING, Texas -- An aching back and too many bad shots
finally convinced Arnold Palmer to end his competitive career.
Palmer withdrew after playing only four holes of the Administaff
Small Business Classic on Friday, then told his loyal fans at the
end of the round that he was retiring from tournament play.
Palmer made the tearful announcement with a large group of
"Arnie's Army" huddled around.
"I made every move in the bag today to make a good shot and I
wasn't very successful," Palmer said. "That's not surprising. It
just didn't come today. It's been working its way into my
repertoire. It's tough and it's emotional for me because it's my
Palmer, 77, has played less frequently in recent years. He had
played in only one other Champions Tour event this year. He hit two
balls into the water on the par 4, 440-yard No. 4 hole Friday,
playing in a threesome with Lee Trevino and John Mahaffey.
He played the rest of the round but did not keep score.
"I've been doing this for a long time and, first of all, to
stand out there and not be able to make something happen is very
traumatic in my mind," Palmer said. "The people, they all want to
see a good shot and you know it and you can't give them that good
shot. That's when it's time."
Palmer played his final PGA Tour event at the 2004 Masters, a record 50th consecutive start at Augusta National. His first victory at the Masters in 1958 is where "Arnie's Army" was
created, a time when television began to take an interest in golf
and had the charismatic Palmer to bring the masses to the game.
Known universally in golf as "The King," Palmer joined the PGA
Tour in 1955 and won the Canadian Open that year for his first
professional victory. He won the last of his 62 PGA Tour titles in
the 1973 Bob Hope Classic, and he last won a Champions Tour event
in 1988 at the Crestar Classic. He's fourth on the PGA Tour victory
list with 62, won 10 times on the 50-and-over tour -- including five
majors -- and also won the 1954 U.S. Amateur.
Palmer did not play his first Champions Tour event this year
until last month outside Baltimore. He continued to play the
Administaff Small Business Classic because of a relationship with
Palmer said he would play in some charity events "but now there
are no more thoughts of tournament golf."
Palmer said he would spend more time with his other business
"It isn't that I'm not busy," Palmer said. "I've got a lot to
do. I'm going to concentrate on building golf courses now and
really spend a lot of time doing that. I've got quite a few on the
books ready to go. That's going to be my next major passion."
Trevino grabbed Palmer's ball after the final hole and asked him
to sign the ball and Palmer's glove.
"When he putted out, I grabbed the ball and I had the Sharpie
in my back pocket and then while he had the Sharpie, I said sign
that glove too," Trevino said. "We didn't take his shoes."
Trevino knew early in the round that Palmer was having trouble
"After the third hole he was ready to throw it in," Trevino
said. "I said, 'I'll get a cart, you don't have to play.' He said, 'No I can't go. I can't leave, but please don't put a score
Palmer said he finished the round because he owed it to his
fans, a trait that followed Palmer throughout his Hall of Fame
"My toenails were aching," Palmer said. "I took a bunch of
pills and I made it and I feel fine now. I'm still aching. I'm glad
I did the 18 holes. I sat down a couple of times and I wasn't sure
I'd get back up."
Jay Haas shared the first round tournament lead but his thoughts
were with Palmer.
"I think the fans have kept him going for a long time," Haas
said. "We will certainly miss him. He's The King. You wish he
could keep on going but all things must end."