Lions’ Caldwell: Palmer was a ‘gentleman’s gentleman’

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Jim Caldwell

Allen Park – Lions coach Jim Caldwell bounced around the college ranks for 15 years before earning his first head coaching job at Wake Forest in 1993.

During his eight years at the helm, Caldwell helped set several program records and also crossed paths with one notable alumnus: golf legend Arnold Palmer.

Palmer, who died Sunday in Pittsburgh at the age of 87, was a star for the Demon Deacons, winning the 1949 and 1950 NCAA individual titles and leading his team to three Southern Conference championships. Palmer would later cement his status as one of the greatest golfers of all time by claiming seven major championships and 62 PGA Tour wins.

“I had a chance to meet him on several occasions and the best way I could describe him is he's a gentleman's gentleman in every single phase of his life,” Caldwell said. “He’s a beloved figure there in that area, school.

Henning: Palmer made his mark in Michigan, too

“Every time I had a chance to meet with him he was great to talk to; just a number of great stories and a great sense of humor, but then also a great person.”

Caldwell said his golf game wasn’t “nearly good or remotely close” to be able to hit the links with “The King,” but there is a piece of lasting advice Palmer gave him that Caldwell takes to heart.

“Only thing I took from him is he always used to say that wherever you are on the first tee, you should hit until you’re happy,” Caldwell said. “I try to use that as much as I possibly can.”

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