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AUGUST 4, 1997

Sports

The King delivers . . .

  by Chuck Reidt
   One after another, each of the four captains of local industry that made up Arnold Palmer's golf team stepped up and striped the ball long and down the center of the first fairway.
  
   Now it was Arnie's turn, the introductory ovation and the long litany of Arnie's golfing accomplishments a ringing testimony of a very special man. Arnie, looking resplendent in golf attire that accentuated his tan complexion and silver hair, stepped over to a selected spot on the tee box, pressed the tee into the turf and then took his address over the golf ball. Dead silence, several thousand fans feeling the pressure of answering those great tee shots by Arnie's amateur partners.
  
   Arnie appeared intent, adjusting his stance ever so slightly, sturdy forearms wagging the oversized driver behind the ball. A momentary pause and then Arnie stated the club into the back swing, head behind the ball, left shoulder rotating under the chin. As the shoulders coil around firmly planted legs, Arnie (not known for swing fluidity) gave a little upper body thrust to assist his hips in initiating a powerful downswing, legs, torso and golf club flashing in unison towards the golf ball.
  
   Generating surprising clubhead speed, the driver slashed through the hitting zone. The sharp report of synthetic balata contacting metal the first indication of a ball well struck.
  
   The ball flight from the tee box appeared instantaneous; it quickly rose to that necessary altitude for extra distance. The pent-up energy of fan tension erupted into thunderous cheers of appreciation, adoration and plain relief as everyone's favorite golf hero delivered one more time. The ball continued its flight, now drawing left to the center of the fairway with seemingly undiminished velocity, it began its descent. Striking the turf with vigor, the ball, vivid white against emerald green grass, bounded forward and well beyond the other tee shots, resting finally in that long and perfect place on the fairway known as the 'garden spot.'
  
   With cheers and applause still reverberating from the throng, Arnie began a quick step up the fairway to his ball with a broad smile and a wave.
  
   Hustling up the fairway to position myself across from Arnie's tee shot, I and those clustered with me were treated to the ultimate finishing touch to a great tee shot from a great golfer and gentleman when Arnie turned to us and with his youthful smile remarked, "It must have hit a sprinkler head."
  
   Thanks, Arnie, for a lifetime of golf memories. And thanks to Fred Couples and John Bracken who promoted the Fred Couples' Invitational held last week at Inglewood Golf Club. A job well done!