2002: Business - Palmer ‘very encouraged’ by compromise

The driver compromise between the U.S. Golf Association and The Royal & Ancient Golf Club had one interested onlooker in Latrobe, Pa.

“I think I heard Ely Callaway laugh out loud last night,” Arnold Palmer said cheerily when asked to comment on the deal.

But Palmer wasn’t gloating over the deal the ruling bodies struck on spring-like effect in drivers – widely viewed as a triumph for Callaway Golf and its late founder, Ely Callaway.

Rather, Palmer elected to focus on the game’s future.

“I am very encouraged by this and what this will tend to do,” he said. “If we can continue along these lines, golf will be in great shape. All of us should be concerned about what will happen down the road. This is a wonderful step in the right direction.”

It was Callaway Golf, employing Palmer as a spokesman, that conspicuously lobbied the USGA for a rules change regarding drivers. In the process, Palmer was criticized by some golf traditionalists. Now that the rules change is here, however, he didn’t want to talk about vindication.

“This has nothing to do with me,” he said. “It’s about a game that we all love. I’ve been working on this personally and privately since this whole thing started, just by talking with people like (R&A secretary) Peter Dawson and (former USGA president) Buzz Taylor. I’ve done this in a nice, quiet way, hoping that they would make the rules uniform.”

Before the compromise was announced, Palmer received a call from USGA executive director David Fay. Palmer had just flown from Thermal, Calif., to Latrobe, Pa., in his new $20 million Cessna Citation X jet. “Three hours and eight minutes,” Palmer said. “A new (personal) record.”

What Fay told him was cause for additional celebration, but Palmer elected to look soberly into his crystal ball.

“I think lots of people are happy about this,” he said. “I think all of this is so fresh that we’re going to have to hang in there and see what happens. This five-year period (during which so-called “hot” drivers can be used by amateur golfers) – who knows what will happen five years down the road? We may find out a lot more about the COR (coefficient of restitution) of a golf club between now and then. I think there’s a lot to do in that area.”

Palmer, however, didn’t have to wait to get the reaction of his amateur golfing buddies.

“I have numerous friends who use it (Callaway’s ERC II driver, which has been nonconforming in the United States). When I told them it was going to be legal, they were very elated. I saw a lot of smiles.”

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