We were all honored to listen to Arnold Palmer as he sat down with @HarryArnettCG for The King – An Exclusive Callaway Talks series of interviews. We all got to listen in, but Harry was the man in the middle of it, asking the questions and going back and forth with the legend.
That got us thinking – what was it like to interview Mr. Palmer? And what were some of the biggest takeaways from the interview? Harry would know, he did it! So we pulled him aside to ask 5 questions about the experience. Here’s what he had to say.
How were you feeling on the day of the interview? Were you nervous?
I was definitely nervous, but not a scared kind of nervous. It was identical to the way you’d feel when you wake up on a day you know you’re going to play a totally awesome golf course. I was really excited to sit down and talk with him for so many reasons. It was obviously a great thing for Callaway and a really important step for the Callaway Talks show.
And on a personal side, my family was a Palmer family. I was really too young to be around when he was in his competitive golf prime, of course, but my grandparents and uncles were all about The King.
They’d drive over to Augusta every April hoping to catch a glimpse of him and the “thumbs up.” So thinking about that kind of stuff was really pretty overwhelming. But I also knew not to think about that too much.
I didn’t want Mr. Palmer to have to see me all emotional and sentimental about that! I mean, he’s The King! He’s one of the toughest athletes in history. Couldn’t have that.
So driving over to Bay Hill, Rhiona and I went over the flow of how we wanted the conversation to go, what types of things we were hoping we could get into with Mr. Palmer, and the vibe we wanted to try to create with him.
I tried to stay focused on the job and like with all the guests we get to talk to on Callaway Talks, try to have fun and hopefully entertain and educate the viewer a little.
What is it about his personality that makes people gravitate toward him? What does the room feel like with him in it?
Well, I think it’s that when you’re in the room, you feel that he actually cares to spend some time with you.
And that’s so rare from anybody, much less someone who has such an elevated status in our culture at large, not just his exalted place in golf. When he comes into the room, everyone stops to see him walk in.
And even at 84-years-old, he still has that incredible presence. And when he talks to you, he looks you right in the eye and locks in. Doesn’t matter who you are. And that kind of style just makes you feel like he’s your friend, one of the guys. It’s special.
One thing I’ve always thought about, and I talked to him a little about on the program, was that every time he spoke to someone he didn’t know, it was likely the biggest conversation that person had ever had with a golfer.
And I wondered whether he realized that. He said meeting and talking to those people was always just as important to him. That was really freaking awesome.
What was your favorite part about the interview?
My favorite part was actually not my favorite part when it was happening, believe it or not. At one point, I wanted to ask him about that if he had a time machine and could go back and talk to himself when he was 25-years old, what would he tell his young self?
So I started by saying, “Now that you’re getting to the last few chapters of your time here…” and he interrupted me with a totally deadpanned and offended, “I AM?!!!”
And I kind of froze there for a second thinking, “Uh, oh. I’m about to get punched by the strongest hands in the history of golf!” But when I looked at him, he had that gleam in his eye that he knew he could put the needle in me pretty good on that one. It was really funny.
Was there anything he said that surprised you?
I’m so captivated by Augusta National and the major there, that it was really fascinating to hear him say that he decided not to try to change his game at all to compete and win there.
He said that he didn’t try to hit the ball higher, like so many people told him he had to, but he really studied the course and learned the positions he needed to be in to take advantage of his abilities and score well. I thought that was so interesting and a great lesson. Actually a great lesson off the golf course too, probably!
What were your takeaways after interviewing him? What were some of the biggest takeaways from what he said about Callaway?
Well, I think just that even at an age when he deserves to stand back and have the golf world throw accolades and appreciation his way, he’s not only humble and deflective of it, but he’s still thinking of ways to make the game better and how he can be a part of it.
Everybody’s heard all the stories about his playing career and even some about his business career, but I think people would be surprised to hear him weigh in on things current and affecting the game now and in the future.
The guy is grounded in traditional values, of course, but those values are everlasting and inspiring. You see? I’m getting all misty again, you jerk!
One thing he said about Callaway, and it actually wasn’t on the program, but was when he was chatting beforehand with Chip Brewer and me, was saying that if Callaway were around when he was playing tournament golf, he thinks he would have won a lot more.
He said he always struggled with hitting the ball to low off the tee and newer driver technologies we have that help hit it higher would have really helped him. That was interesting.
It reminded me of a conversation I had recently with an older gentleman who was basically thanking equipment companies for allowing him to play and enjoy golf even as he got older. That was great.
You can watch all of Harry’s interview with Arnold Palmer here.
And for more insights about the big major this week in Georgia, take a look at our new Wedgeducation video on chipping at Augusta.