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Review: Golf Channel's 'Arnie'

First of Three-Part Doc Tees Off April 13 at 10 p.m. 4/11/2014 4:45 PM Eastern
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Golf Channel's three-part documentary about the legendary Arnold Palmer gives viewers a look at the life and legacy of the sport's king.

Narrator Tom Selleck sets up Golf Channel’s three-part documentary tribute to a golfing legend by noting: “Someday – even decades – maybe centuries from now, they’ll hear the name Arnold Palmer and they’ll want to know everything.”

 

For those who are too young or have forgotten, Arnie brings memories and perspective to the course Palmer set on America’s sports and culture that teed off more than a half-century ago.

 

With 100 interviews and conversations with a still sharp Palmer over the past year, Arnie is produced by 13-time Emmy Award winner and former NBC Sports feature producer Israel DeHerrera.

 

Screening the first two parts of Golf’s home movie of sorts – Palmer is a co-founder of the 83 million home channel – Arnie weighs in on the influence of his steely father Deacon and loving mother Doris, and the profound impact the death of Buddy Worsham, his college buddy from Wake Forest, had on the young man.

 

Arnie also examines what was Palmer’s hardy initial embrace of Mark McCormack, the late IMG founder, whose influence on the player’s life and the sports world is boundless. Peyton Manning, who knows a million or few about pitching, talks about the invention of sports marketing. That was fueled by the proliferation of TV, which reached 88% of U.S. households in 1960, during Palmer's on-course ascension.

 

Palmer’s business enterprises  and charitable legacy, particularly the hospitals named for his late wife, Winnie, are also explored. So, too, is how the man the common folk loved and helped golf explode have had their love requited over the years by the leader of Armie's Army. Palmer responds to all letters/request he receives -- all housed in countless boxes in a shed at his Latrobe, Pa., home.

 

The doc delves into his competitive relationship and friendship with Jack Nicklaus and their contrasting personalities and styles. Palmer, the extrovert, swung fast and produced low drives, while the more introverted, deliberate Nicklaus fashioned high shots that ultimately surpassed Palmer on the course. What's unsaid is that the superiority of his game has kept the Golden Bear in the public eye more than Palmer, as Jack's 18 majors are continually mentioned in many Tiger Woods' discussions.

 

Then, there is the golf itself.  Black and white footage dramatically captures Palmer's hard-charging, go-for-broke style that would make Phil Mickelson proud. "The King's" aggressive nature yielded seven Grand Slams, as well as implosion on 18 that ended his chance to become the first man ever to repeat at the Masters, back in 1961. The case is also made how three shots could have quadrupled Palmer's total of one U.S. Open. His triumphs at the British and shortcomings at the PGA are also chronicled in the second part of the documentary.

 

You can take viewer mulligans in the sense that there will be encores on the network and on the Golf Live Xtra app to screen Arnie. But what better way to cap the Masters 2014 Sunday by spending time with Arnie, the man who burnished his royal links legacy at Augusta National.

 

Arnie premieres April 13 at 10 p.m. on Golf Channel.

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