In 1958, a young Arnold Palmer won his first Masters Tournament – the first of four Masters to come. Arnie had fallen in love with flying a few years earlier and began training to upgrade both his flying skills and aviation ratings. During this time, Professional Golfers would “caravan” with each other from tournament to tournament, sharing a ride and a hotel room to save on expenses. Arnie realized there was a better way.
His plane of choice was a twin-engine Aero Commander 500, which he purchased in 1959. Being able to play a tournament in Palm Springs, CA and be home in Pennsylvania Sunday evening with his family was very important to Arnie.
My father, Brown Sanderson, was the Personnel Director for Aero Commander, located in Oklahoma City, OK. Being a scratch golfer himself, he seized the opportunity when Arnie arrived to pick up his new Aero Commander. Dad told Arnie that in order to close the deal, they would have to play 18 holes at a nearby municipal golf course. My father, needless to say, was “quite the man” around Lake Hefner Golf Club after local golfers recognized who was in the foursome!
Arnie went on to own several Aero Commanders, including a Jet Commander. His love for flying was a close third behind his family and golf – which made flying an essential tool for traveling to the national PGA Tour stops. These days, it’s the norm for Tour Players to own, or fractionally own a private jet.
I was able to get Arnie’s autograph on a picture in 1991 at his final PGA Championship in Birmingham, AL. The picture hangs proudly in my home as a reminder of my brush with greatness.
Grooveit, “The Wet Club Scrub”