In my younger days as a golf professional, I worked for Arnold Palmer at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando. One particular day, I was working in the pro shop, and Mr. Palmer as we called him came up to me and said, "How would you like to go home and see your folks?" I said, "Yeah! I'd love to do that," so he told me, "Well alright. We're going to be leaving about noon." That meant I got to fly on his Learjet. He piloted the jet, and I was home in less than two hours. It was a pretty cool experience just to be able to stop in and see my folks as I hadn't seen them in a while. That was one of the many experiences that I had at Bay Hill.
We have two guys, a son and his father, that come up to Rocky Branch nearly every day or about three times a week. They've been doing this about eight or nine years. And he asked me one day, "During the tournament, I've got my whole family coming in. Can I make three tee times?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "Everybody's going to be staying at my house, and we're just going to play golf." They had four tickets and twelve guys, so every day, somebody would pull a ticket, and the rest would play golf. Well, the next day, I'm working the restaurant, and I look up and there's Phil Niekro, Hall of Fame pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, paying for everybody. We spoke, and we talkied about my parents, and he wrote them both a very nice note and sent some things to them. Ever since that day, when he comes in, he just plays golf. He'll get a drink with me and Melanie at the bar and talk about baseball. He'll tell us stories about funny things that go on behind the scenes and stories that will touch your heart, things they do for others. He's a Hall of Fame friend as much as he is a Hall of Fame pitcher.
My friend Steve Beasley and I used to play, and one day he wasn't putting very well, and he was so frustrated that he started to break his putter. But as he went to break it over his knee I said, "Woah!" because I had always liked it; it was an old Wilson Blade putter. He gave that putter to me, and I've used it ever since that day over 25 years ago. Steve passed away over nine years ago now, and I still think of him a lot, especially when I'm playing golf.