Arnold Palmer attracts world attention to golf in Vail |

Arnold Palmer attracts world attention to golf in Vail

Dick Hauserman
Daily file photoThe billboard for the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy was erected in March 1968.

He brought in Bud Holscher, head pro at the Lakeside Club in Los Angeles, as administrative golf director, to prepare a student training manual. He would organize the curriculum, which included principles, attitudes, concentration, sportsmanship, golf history, rules and etiquette. On the 25 acres, John McGrath, Palmer’s golf-course consultant and one of the founders of Hilton Head, designed an original training center, where every shot for every golfing situation could be practiced.

The academy consisted of three three-week sessions. At each session, to add even more prestige, Palmer assigned some old golf-tour buddies to serve as VIP pros. The VIP pro for the first group was none other than the world-famous golf teacher and former leading money-winner on the pro tour, Bob Toski.

For the second session, Palmer added his good friend and former tour winner Shelly Mayfield to inspire the kids. Ralph Haddad from Denver acted as the VIP pro for the last class. The instructors were college golf-team coaches from some of the leading universities, and the counselors were college golf-team members from across the country. Ernie Baca, caddie master at El Dorado Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, was lured to oversee and keep track of golf-bag storage. At times there were more than 200 golf bags and shoes. With 12- to 17-year-olds, it took some strong management. An executive director, or headmaster, so to speak – Bill Cooper – was hired to run the academy. Bill O’Donnell was the manager of operations.

The marketing was left to Frank Abramoff and myself. It was a big job. I was fortunate to find an able assistant in Sara Newsam, and together we made a team. Four-color brochures, the student training manual, and a logo had to be designed. Publicity, lodging, and restaurant arrangements were major projects that had to be accomplished in a short time.

Finally, the big announcement. A press conference was set up for Nov. 27, 1967, at the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building on Park Avenue in New York City. Rarely has there been such a gathering.

Fifty outstanding invitees attended, including prominent sports writers, publishers of major newspapers, sporting celebrities, representatives from Time, Life, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, Look, Newsweek, Golf Digest, and Ski Magazine. Even Howard Cossell, Mayor John Lindsay, Bud Palmer, Jim McKay, Johnny Carson, Lowell Thomas, Mark McCormack, John Murchison, and Thomas Watson Jr. of IBM showed up.

The results? – articles in about 150 newspapers from coast to coast. The applications started to roll in. PALMER! What a name! His magnetism, charm, and popularity were at their highest. Never before, nor since, in such a short period of time, was a marketing effort so successful in Vail.

Editor’s Note: In a continued effort to help the community understand its roots, the Vail Daily for a second time is serializing Dick Hauserman’s “The Inventors of Vail.” This is the 59th installment, an excerpt from chapter 8, “The History of Golf in Vail.” The book is available at Verbatim Booksellers, The Bookworm of Edwards, Pepi’s Sports, Gorsuch Ltd. and The Rucksack, as well as other retailers throughout the valley. Hauserman can be contacted by phone at 926-2895 or by mail at P.O. Box 1410, Edwards CO, 81632.

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