Gore’s connection to Arnold Palmer

Jason Gore is leading the Bay Hill Invitational and is playing on a sponsor’s exemption. If you think that’s cool, continue reading this part of the transcript of how Gore met Arnold Palmer – who gave him the exemption – when he was 11.

Q. Steve was telling me you and Mr. Palmer go a long way back.
JASON GORE: Steve is lying. Do you want the long story or the short story?

Q. The long story.
JASON GORE: I was afraid you were going to say that.
When I was 11 years old, all my family is from Pittsburgh, so I was just starting to play golf. My uncle John Kovak was a teacher, wasn’t a PGA teacher, but we went back to Pittsburgh for a month for the summer, and I was just getting into golf and he was helping me, yada-yada, started to absolutely love it because I could drive a golf cart there. This was back when I thought Pinnacle 384s were the best ball in the world.
My mom and I went for a ride up to Latrobe, wasn’t that far away. We found Latrobe Country Club and drove in like we owned the place. I was wearing a light blue Town & Country surf design tee shirt with a big ugly emblem on the back, and I had these shorts on that had yellow and pink and blue and red, I don’t know what they were, obnoxiously terrible. Never been on a surfboard in my life, but I looked like a surfer.
So we walked into the pro shop at Latrobe Country Club, members only, walked into the pro shop, and we kind of in a stupid way said, “Is Mr. Palmer going to be here?” They said, “As a matter of fact, he is.” So we waited around. He drove up in a tractor-like golf cart.
I just remember he was nice enough, he took a picture with us, signed a scorecard, and he said, “Son, I’m going to go hit balls. Would you like to come watch?” “Well, yeah, I’d love to.” So he went down, took a whole leather bag of shag balls, dropped them on like the ladies’ part of the first tee, the lower tee, and he sat the caddie down there and hit balls and I sat right on the little slope right behind the first tee and watched Mr. Palmer hit balls for about 45 minutes, and from that point on I knew I wanted to be a professional golfer.

Q. Have you told him that story again?
JASON GORE: I told him that story, we had an outing at Calusa Pines last year, and I told him that story, and it was like a fireside chat is what it was. We were all inside, and he was telling stories about the Ryder Cup and all this stuff, and I finally just said, “I’ve got to reiterate this story,” because that hour of my life changed my life completely.
I told him the story, and I look over at him, and I can see him kind of starting to well up a little bit. It might have been what I wanted him to do, so I might have been making it up (laughter), but he got up, shook my hand, pulled me in, gave me a hug, and that’s just the kind of person he is. This guy is the — the littlest things he does for a punk dressed in surf clothes who was trespassing on his property changes lives. He’s got that power, and that’s what makes him The King, and that’s why he’s the greatest person to this game.
I went up and saw him a couple weeks ago down in Seminole. We played in a pro-member, and I knew I had gotten a sponsor’s invite. I drove out there and said, “Mr. Palmer, thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to play your golf tournament.” He looked at me and winked, and he said, “I never forgot that story.”
I think he doesn’t even know who I am or remember that moment, but he did, and it’s a very touching moment, and it changed my life forever. So there’s the long story. Good luck printing that one.

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About Jill Painter

Jill Painter is a sports columnist for the Los Angeles News Group, covering everything from the Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, USC, UCLA, Kings, golf and all human interest stories in sports.