The Canadian flag was brought down to half mast on Monday at the Wascana Country Club in Regina in tribute to golfing legend Arnold Palmer.
“When you lose a giant of the game and a legend, irreplaceable in many respects,” said Greg Dukart, the CEO of the Wascana Country Club.
Dukart said he got the opportunity to meet and play a couple of holes with Palmer in B.C. in the 1980s.
“Just a pure gentleman. Icon of the sport … just a really nice man.”
Dukart said he doesn’t remember who won, but says just by being able to play with Palmer, he won.
“Growing up he was kind of the person, in my mind, that got the game noticed.”
Dukart said watching Palmer play was a part of why he was motivated to get into the sport.
“When you have your icons and you have a chance to watch them participate and how they handle themselves around people and how they grow the game with what they do with their actions, certainly I became motivated.”
For the young golfers now, Dukart said they owe their career to Palmer.
“He’s the one that took the game to where it is, and without Arnold Palmer, I don’t think you’d see the sport the way it is now.”
Keith Rever has been a prize-winning golfer in Saskatchewan since the late 1950s, and has been inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame.
Rever was part of the Royal Saskatchewan Golf Association, which is now Golf Canada, for several years. That’s when he met Arnold Palmer for the first time.
During the 1976 Canadian Open, Rever said Palmer flew into Detroit and then drove across the border to Windsor.
“(When he arrived) he was inundated with spectators asking for autographs and by the time he got into the club house he had to change his shirt because it was all covered with black marks,” Rever laughed.
Rever said Palmer was a magnetic person and people loved him.
According to Rever, Palmer interrupted the first round of the tournament to talk to a man in a wheelchair on the sidelines.
“He went over to this young man, put his arm around him and signed his hat and they gave him a couple of golf balls that he signed, and I thought the young man would get out of his wheelchair and walk, he was so excited.”
Rever said Palmer had a big impact on the game, being the first person to really raise the profile of the game and increase the purses.
Though Palmer was a big name for years in golf, Rever said younger golfers just starting out probably don’t know him.
“His name and his legacy may be dwindling or not nearly as big as it was 20 or 25 years ago.”