Surrey remembers golf legend Arnold Palmer

Flags are flying at half-mast at Surrey’s Northview Golf & Country Club this week for Arnold Palmer, who designed its two courses.

Chris Hoy

SURREY — Flags are flying at half-mast at Surrey’s Northview Golf & Country Club this week.

The King is dead.

Professional golf legend Arnold Palmer, who designed Northview’s two 18-hole courses, died in Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon at age 87 from heart problems. He’s being fondly remembered by his fans in Surrey this week.

Northview opened on a warm, sunny September morning in 1994 and would host seven PGA tournaments.

“He came out to put his stamp on it and make sure everybody was aware that he was the architect,” recalled Chris Hoy, Northview’s director of golf operations.

Hoy and Northview owner Chick Stewart played 18 holes on the Ridge course with The King. “It was a skins game,” Hoy remembered. “I opened with two birdies, one and two, and I thought that’ll make him notice me, right? There were 400 fans here, and I swear to God to this day nobody remembers that I was there. They were here to see Arnie.

“We had soft drinks and sandwiches set up at nine holes and Arnie disappeared,” said Hoy, relishing the memory. “I was waiting on the tenth tee, wondering, ‘Where did he go?’ One of my assistants comes running up to me and he says, ‘He’s behind the kiosk, he downed two beers and he said enough of that bulls–t — he’s coming after ya!’ I stood on that tenth tee, and I thought, ‘Awesome! How awesome is that?’”

In the end, Stewart won seven skins, Palmer six and Hoy five.

“For me it was the most awesome thing ever.”

Palmer came back for another game the following year, on the Canal course.

“There isn’t a bigger star in golf. Nicklaus might have been the greatest player, and Tiger might have been the greatest player of this age, but Palmer put golf on the map. He’s the reason I played golf, as an 11-year-old, I thought ‘Look at this guy; I can do that.’ Turns out that I can’t, but pretty amazing that he could draw me into the game and away from all the other sports that I loved.”

Hoy recalled Palmer making  a hole-in-one during a corporate event. “Of course that made the news that night and the next day, there was a whole bunch of reporters there, and they were like, ‘Do it again, Arnie, get another hole in one.’ So he does. He gets another hole-in-one. Unbelievable.”

That was on Sept. 3, 1986. The lede in the Washington Post’s story the next day read “On Tuesday, Arnold Palmer made a hole in one. Yesterday, he returned and made a hole in a million.”

This reporter has a wee Palmer story to tell. Back in the early 1990s, I’d been covering Surrey municipal hall and was at a press conference in Vancouver where Palmer was holding court. As the Serpentine canal runs through Northview, I had the temerity to ask him about the pesticides they’d use. Oh, the “How-dare-you” looks of horror I got from the big-time sports reporters in the room.

But Palmer was all class, and afterward I walked away with an autographed photo for my dad, a big fan of his. It’s still hanging, framed, on his wall.

“He had a way of disarming you,” Hoy said of Palmer.

Indeed, he did. Let’s leave the last word to The King himself, with one of his famous quotes.

“I have a tip that can take five strokes off anyone’s game: It’s called an eraser.”

tom.zytaruk@thenownewspaper.com

Just Posted

VIDEO: Surrey’s former Flamingo Hotel goes out with a bang

The Flamingo opened in July 1955 as a motor hotel with 20 rooms

Rocky Mountain high: Surrey’s Burzan picked in NHL draft by Colorado Avalanche

Guildford-raised forward currently in WHL with Brandon Wheat Kings

Queen Elizabeth students hit $100K in donations to Surrey Hospital Foundation

Secondary students have been raising funds for a decade through the Roots & Rhythms event

City hopes Surrey’s new energy centre will be ‘a window’ into sustainability

Facility’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

SQUEEZING SURREY STUDENTS IN: The causes and impacts of overcrowding in city schools

Special series: How growth is affecting students, parents and school staff alike – and what the future holds

Wildfire burning in coastal forest

A fire beside the Sea to Sky Highway is burning up a steep slope

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Being a pot dealer is not what it used to be

Sunday Big Read: the business of selling marijuana in B.C. is a slow bureaucratic slog

VIDEO: Two more pride flags have been stolen from Langley woman

Lisa Ebenal was “angry” and “fed up” after the latest theft. Then people started showing suppport

B.C. couple who has raised 58 children turns to community amid cancer diagnosis

Family who raised, fostered and adopted many kids hoping to gain some precious together time to fight cancer

Canucks acquire forward J.T. Miller from Lightning

J.T. Miller, 26, had 13 goals and 34 assists for the Lightning last season

Most Read