POLK CITY - The golf world suffered a major loss on Sunday. Arnold Palmer died at the age of 87. More than a decade ago, he designed and played a course in Polk City.
"One of the first things we did was we lowered our tournament club to half-staff,” said Mark Bowersox, Former Polk City Police Chief. “He means a lot to us, and we're going to miss him."
"It's a bit of a blow to golf, but his impact cannot be lessened simply by his passing,” said Brad Wuhs, the former golf pro at the Tournament Club of Iowa.
Everywhere you turn at TCI, you can see the impact of Arnold Palmer.
"He liked to have the course natural, leave it the way Iowa is, he didn't want to have a lot of fancy things,” explained Bowersox.
Palmer left his mark on the course in a lot of different ways, from the ways the greens were set up to the arrangement of the rough and ravines. One of them is this tree on the 13th hole. They tried to start a chain saw to take it down, but it wouldn't get started. So, Palmer said, why not just leave it as a marker for the fairway.
This is the only golf course in Iowa bearing his signature. Polk City's former police chief remembers working security when Palmer came to town for the grand opening.
"There were a lot of people there, and I asked him, Mr. Palmer do you want to sign autographs,” said Bowersox. “He said, sure, I'll sign autographs and he stood for several minutes and signed for everybody and talked to everybody and was very personable.
Wuhs remembers being awestruck by The King on the day he caddied for him.
"He hops out and I was really nervous,” said Wuhs. “And I was so nervous, I forgot to change my shoes. So, I was out there, caddying for him wearing penny loafers."
Tony Hoyles worked at another club that was designed by Palmer, and he vividly remembers the conversation he had with the Legend before moving to Iowa.
"He goes, 'The final three holes, they're really tough’,” said Hoyles. “And I'm like, but Mr. Palmer, I didn't even tell you where I'm going. He said, 'You're going to TCI. It's the only course I designed in Iowa."
And Hoyles says he knew that Palmer wanted to really connect with everyone he met, knowing he was the same whether the cameras were on, or off.
"The world didn't just lose a golf icon, it lost one of the best people that you'll ever meet,” said Hoyles.
There’s another tie palmer had to Iowa. he was the stroke play medalist at the NCAA Championships back in 1949, which were held at Veenker Golf Course up in Ames.
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