Kaz’s Korner

Joe Kazmar

For The Record

Monday morning headlines and lead stories on sports talk shows focused on the death of 87 year-old Arnold Palmer and the shocking firing of LSU head football coach Les Miles.

Palmer was a favorite of every young golfer who tried to emulate his vicious golf swing and easy-going manner, while a handful of ardent LSU boosters kept looking for an excuse to get rid of the high-priced Miles from the Baton Rouge campus for his failure to win the big games recently.

Thanks to Arnie, golf fans were able to watch him compete in the weekly tournaments on television back in the 1960’s and early 1970’s and even play on one of his nearly 300 signature-designed golf courses scattered around the world.

Palmer, the son of the greens-keeper at his home course in Latrobe, Pa. rapidly rose to become part of the sports elite and was known on the PGA Tour as “The King” and frequently was asked to be the playing partner of several U.S. presidents.

He also formed Arnold Palmer Enterprises which handled his endorsements and other business ventures, according to an article appearing in the Washington Post Monday. This helped make Arnie the first golfer to make his name a world-wide franchise and his endorsements soared from $6,000 a year to more than $500,000.

The article points out that “Palmer invented golf as a televised sport, becoming the game’s first well-known star by helping to put his name and a face to the game.”

He changed the game from being one played by hoity-toity men wearing tweed coats and knickers at exclusive country clubs to the popularity it commands today.

Arnie’s career spanned five decades and he was the winner of 62 tournaments on the U.S. tour. He accrued nearly $7 million in prize money which would be interpolated into more than $70 million with today’s paydays. He was the first golfer to earn $1 million in purses.

One year when Palmer was competing in the Masters at Augusta, several soldiers from nearby Fort Gordon came to watch him. That parade of uniformed troops earned them the name “Arnie’s Army” which stuck for the thousands of his followers the remainder of his pro career.

Palmer’s key competitor throughout the 1960’s and 70’s was Jack Nicklaus and this duo dominated the PGA tour for nearly 20 years. South African Gary Player and Tom Watson also got into the mix during that time.

The Palmer-Nicklaus fierce rivalry continued throughout those two decades with Arnie established as “The King” and Nicklaus tabbed “The Golden Bear”. But Palmer referred to his adversary as “The Golden Pig” reflecting Nicklaus’ pudgy physique.

“Throughout his career, Palmer maintained contracts with a wide variety of companies, including Rayovac batteries, Rolex watches, Starkey hearing aids, Pennzoil engine fluids, Ketel One vodka, Cadillac luxury cars, Callaway golfing products and E-Z-Go golf carts,” the article revealed.

“Palmer is also credited with creating a blended drink, an iced tea splashed with lemonade,” the article added. This is simply called an Arnold Palmer.

Les Miles had been skating on thin ice for the past couple of seasons. He thought he would be canned after the Texas A&M home game last season, but he Tigers played great and won. Miles even said goodbye to a gathering of LSU boosters before the game, according to the New York Times.

The 62-year-old Miles was fired last weekend four games into his 12th season after an overall record of 114-34, five top-10 finishes, two national championship game appearances and one national title.

But the fanatical fans of LSU grew nervous because Alabama and Auburn, two Southeastern Conference West Division rivals, won a combined five national titles since LSU last won one.

The final straw came Saturday at Auburn when LSU trailed 18-13 as the final seconds ticked away and appeared to score a dramatic go-ahead touchdown on the final play of the game.

But LSU was flagged for an illegal shift prior to that play and replay showed that the ball was snapped after the final second elapsed.

My question is how can a game official step off a five-yard penalty, place the football on the ground, back out of the way and blow the whistle to start play and have the clock run out?

I must not either know the rule about putting the ball in play after a penalty OR the scenario of the referee putting the ball in play, the clock operator starting the clock correctly and the folks working in the replay booth being all Auburn alumni.

LSU will probably look for the most expensive big-name coach available to replace Miles after the season ends, like Houston’s Tom Herman or Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher. And if it is Fisher, LSU had better not EVER get steamrolled like his team did against Louisville two weeks ago.

Les Miles shed a few tears about his firing last weekend and based on his contract buyout of more than $12 million, he will probably cry all the way to the bank!!!

KWICKIES…I was a huge fan of Arnold Palmer when I was a youngster learning to play golf. But what really scares me is that I’ve been taking the blood thinner Arnie advertises for the past four years. I hope he didn’t die from a stroke, but if I can live to be a healthy 87, I won’t complain.

Many Texas Aggies Corps of Cadets were seen at AT&T Stadium in Arlington last Saturday putting up three fingers of his right hand and forming a “W” and his index and thumb showing a “C” showing the gesture of the old Wrecking Crew defense of years ago. It was a compliment to the way A&M played defense which helped defeat Arkansas 45-24. The 4-0 Aggies have moved up to No. 9 in this week’s AP Poll.

And while we’re on the subject of this week’s Associated Press College Football’s Top 25 Poll, the first seven teams retained their position from last week with Alabama, Ohio State, Louisville, Michigan, Clemson, Houston and Stanford, followed by Wisconsin which jumped three places to No. 8, Texas A&M which moved up one notch to No. 9 and Washington, which slipped one place to No. 10. Baylor moved up three places to No. 13, TCU rejoined the poll at No. 20 and Texas dropped one notch to No. 22.

It looks like this will be the season of the untested quarterback in the NFL. After three games Denver (Trevor Siemian) and Philadelphia (Carson Wentz) are 3-0 and 2-1 Dallas Cowboys (Dak Prescott) all have played three games without an interception. All three young quarterbacks look very comfortable running their respective team’s offense.

And speaking of quarterbacks, Seattle’s Russell Wilson is having problems staying healthy. After suffering a sprained ankle, Sunday he was horse-collared and suffered a knee injury. His status for Sunday’s game at the New York Jets is still unknown. The Seahawks finally cranked up their offense and subdued the San Francisco 49ers 37-18 behind the two rushing touchdowns of Beaumont West Brook’s Christine Michael, who ended up with 106 yards on 20 carries.

Rory McIlroy made a 15-foot birdie putt on the fourth extra hole to win the FedEx cup and the $10 million jackpot that goes with it.

JUST BETWEEN US…The Houston Astros (82-74), going into the final six games of the season Monday night, are still three games out of the second wild card spot as their playoff hopes get slimmer each day. The ‘Stroes had a golden opportunity last week by facing the worst team in the AL West Division, but lost the first three games of the four-game series to the lowly LA Angels. This week the Astros are playing three games at home against the Seattle Mariners and finish the season this weekend with a three game series against the Angels in Los Angeles.