My Day With Golfing Great Arnold Palmer

October 1, 2012

SpringHill Suites Scores a Hole in One With This Hotel Owner

"You must play boldly to win," is my favorite Arnold Palmer quote.  It applies to athletics and to business.

A few weeks ago, I met Arnie in Latrobe, PA, when we opened a SpringHill Suites hotel.  Latrobe is Arnold Palmer’s home town – he was born and raised there – and he’s part owner, providing land for this beautiful property.  Our guests are given playing privileges at Latrobe Country Club, which is on many golfers’ bucket list.

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Sharing a golf cart with Arnold Palmer, SpringHill Suites' newest owner

It was also Arnie’s 83rd birthday.  Boy, he looks great, and he still has the swagger of a champion.  I tried golf once, but didn’t have the patience to stick with it.  I admired Arnie’s style. He played boldly, thrashing at the ball from calf-deep grass, hitching up his pants and marching on with his army.

As we rode around the grounds in his golf cart, I realized how much we have in common.  We both came from humble beginnings.  My father started out as a sheep herder.  Arnie’s dad was head groundskeeper and golf professional at Latrobe.  Both fathers instilled in us the value of hard work.  They were demanding, short on praise.

Being in the hotel business, I study how products catch on.  Arnold Palmer is still the Tiffany’s of endorsers.  He was one of the first athletes to be a brand.  He has a drink named after him.  And now our hotel brand – SpringHill Suites – can benefit from Arnie’s Midas touch.

It was a real thrill for me to participate in the ribbon cutting with Arnie.  He seemed very excited with this new hotel, which is on Arnold Palmer Drive, next to Arnold Palmer Airport, which has commercial jet service to Florida and several northern cities.

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Cutting the ribbon with Arnie on my right and my son, David, on my left

Spending time with Arnold Palmer was a wonderful experience.  It was easy to understand why he is so deeply loved and respected.  He’s one of the best golfers the world has ever known.  He won 92 tournaments, including four masters and the U.S. Open, in 1960.  His warm, outgoing and gracious personality continues to be in evidence.

We made short speeches and, as I looked out at the audience, I counted six of our most senior corporate executives in attendance.  I remarked that I was certain they did not come to see me but to meet Arnold Palmer.  He has been one of golfing’s greatest, but certainly the most beloved of all.

He warmly greeted all who came to the event and gladly posed for pictures with anyone who wanted to have their picture with him.  It was an exciting day for me.  Arnie, welcome to our family.

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.

 

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