Sports Book of the Week

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The Independent Online
A Golfer's Life

By Arnold Palmer with James Dodson Century pounds 16.99

THE FIRST thing Tim Finchem, the commissioner of the US Tour, did when he finished reading this book was to phone the publishers and order a copy for every member of the regular, senior and Nike circuits. It would be nice to think the players would already have dashed out to buy a copy since anyone who earns his or her living from playing golf, or from the golf industry, owes a debt of gratitude to Arnold Palmer.

Just when television was beginning to start showing golf in the late Fifties, Palmer came along to play the leading role of the dashing, charismatic hero to perform feats of derring-do. America fell in love with Palmer and the riches available in the game today are a direct result. When Palmer turned 50 and was now more of the subplot they gave him a new show, the Seniors tour.

As the official endorsement might suggest, this is no controversy-courting, publicity-driven autobiography of the modern trend but the reflections on a legendary career in the man's own words and those of his able ghost-writer, James Dodson. Palmer's wife, Winnie, knew Dodson was the man for the occasion after reading Final Rounds, his account of a golfing trip to Britain with his dying father.

This is no ordinary golfer's life story, more an account of the ultimate fulfilment of the American Dream, in the style of a sepia-toned Hollywood biopic. Through the desire to please his stern club pro father, Pap, and with the love of a good woman, Winnie, Palmer belied his working class background to find fame and fortune. But he never deserted his roots, living all his life near the Latrobe Country Club where his father worked, eventually buying the place.

Palmer's major victories, four US Masters, two Opens and a US Open, came within a spell of six years and dried up when he came across an opponent who did not quake under one of his characteristic charges.

But through the strength of his personality, Palmer remains every bit as dominant a force in the game as Jack Nicklaus became through his 18 major wins.