Golf

'Awesome' Arnold Palmer dazzles golf fans in Boise in 2000

By Chadd Cripe

ccripe@idahostatesman.com

Golfing legend Arnold Palmer signs a Wheaties cereal box as he is surrounded by fans after the Coors Light Skins for College Golf game at Boise's Hillcrest Country Club in 2000. Palmer played along with Buy.com Tour player Mark Hensby and PGA Tour professionals John Cook and Notah Begay III.
Golfing legend Arnold Palmer signs a Wheaties cereal box as he is surrounded by fans after the Coors Light Skins for College Golf game at Boise's Hillcrest Country Club in 2000. Palmer played along with Buy.com Tour player Mark Hensby and PGA Tour professionals John Cook and Notah Begay III.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in September 2000.

Arnold Palmer's smile was wide,  his autographing pen busy and his wit razor sharp Monday afternoon at Hillcrest Country Club.

But that wasn't what impressed the roughly 15,000 fans at the Coors Light Skins for College Golf event.

Palmer,  at 71,  whipped a rising star on the PGA Tour,  a tour veteran nearly 30 years his junior and the top money-winner on the Buy.com Tour.

He shot a 1-under-par 34,  helping the Idaho Vandals earn $10,000 to the Boise State Broncos' $5,000 in the fund-raiser.

"It was awesome, " Ron Uriguen,  of Boise,  said. "That's the best thing to happen to Boise in a long time."

Palmer birdied No. 10,  the first hole in the nine-hole competition,  eliciting a huge roar from the crowd. Fans were packed three deep around the greens to watch Palmer,  his skins partner Notah Begay III and the Boise State team of John Cook and Mark Hensby.

The crowds grew as the day went on -- the event started at 3 p.m. -- and the 18th green was nearly as crowded as it will be Sunday,  when the Buy.com Boise Open presented by Albertsons concludes.

Cameras clicked and flashes sparkled as the man credited with turning golf into a popular spectator sport drilled a 3-footer for par on the final hole.

Fans were recording a sight that is becoming more and more rare: Palmer has made deep cuts into his playing schedule in recent years,  and he plans to do so again next year.

"This is once-in-a-lifetime, " Uriguen said.

Palmer followed football star John Elway's appearance in the 1999 skins game and golfer Tom Lehman's stop in 1998.

Marie Wetherell,  a 13-year-old who carried the Coors Light banner around Hillcrest on Monday,  has a suggestion for next year.

"Up next, " she said,  "is gonna be Jack Nicklaus."

Could be. But even the Golden Bear would have bowed to The King on Monday.

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