By definition, the word means a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion.
In my lifetime, names that jump off the page in the charisma department are John F. Kennedy, Muhammad Ali, and Dick Vermeil.
But no one compares to the charisma exuded by Arnold Palmer.
It oozed from every pore.
A quick Arnold Palmer story:
I was playing blackjack in the early 90’s at the Empress Casino in Joliet, Illinois. It was an all-nighter, and I decided to cash in my chips about 4 am and head to the adjacent hotel room.
The casino was virtually empty. As I sleepily trudged down a row of slots I saw a man at the very end of the aisle aggressively pulling a handle on a machine. He was intense, and seemed like he was getting frustrated at the lack of results.
As I got closer to this individual, he seemed to bear a resemblance to Arnold Palmer.
“That’s silly,” I can remember saying to myself. What in the world would Arnie be doing playing slot machines in the middle of the night in Joliet, Illinois?
Now only a couple of feet away, I could tell with complete certainty that it was indeed whom I thought it was.
I stopped in disbelief, and he looked up for a moment and nodded. I extended my hand. He grasped it with a firm shake like he was trying to choke a five iron into doing his will. No words were spoken.
It seems like there was a senior PGA tournament in the city that weekend, and Palmer was staying at the hotel.
Apparently he was a bit of an insomniac as well.
So my brush with royalty was a brief one. And I was fortunate to shake the hand of a King.
Golf writer Dan Jenkins once said Arnie was “a handshake kind of guy in a fist bump kind of world.”
Dan, you are so right.
Thank God I didn’t offer him the bump.
RIP Arnie. Thanks for a lifetime of memories.