He had lunch most days at his regular table in the Palmer Grille, which was known simply as the men’s grille until a few years ago. His chair was the closest to the door of the men’s locker room and to the bar, so he could survey the room and easily greet and banter with members. At night, he often ate upstairs with Kit, his wife of 11 years, in the relaxed but comfortable dining room, which, like the rest of the club, featured artwork, photographs and memorabilia from his storied life and golf career.
Brian Miller, the vice president of an engineering company in Latrobe, was part of Palmer’s regular golf group for more than 30 years. Miller; Jim Bryan, a local dentist; and Marty Newingham played almost every day when Palmer was in town, from early May through October, and then had lunch together.
Referring to Palmer’s absence, Miller said, “It’s difficult, no doubt about it.”
Palmer purchased the club in 1971, and as club president, he had a parking spot next to the clubhouse entrance. When members saw his golf cart, they knew he was somewhere on the property.
Now, said Dr. Barbara Wang, a member for five years, “You go around the corner, and he’s not going to be there.”
Wang got to know Palmer when they served on the board of the Latrobe Area Hospital Charitable Foundation. Though they never played golf together, she said he had always asked about her golf game.
“He always made you feel like you were the most special person in the world,” she said. “He had a warmth that was hard to describe. There was something pretty magical about him.”
Palmer lived in Orlando, Fla., in the winter, but he was ingrained in Latrobe, a former industrial hub of 8,300, like no one else.
At the time of his death, he was chairman of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority, which operates the regional airport that is five minutes up the road from his house and was named for him in 1999. The airport’s executive director, Gabe Monzo, who first met Palmer while busing tables at the country club as a teenager, said he had relished the enthusiasm Palmer brought to meetings.
“He was a great motivator,” Monzo said. “He’d get you fired up about an idea.”
Two miles from the club at Arnold Palmer Motors, Palmer memorabilia fills the waiting area and adorns the showroom. The dealership’s general manager, Ron Paluzzi, Palmer’s…