WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Jim Dodson co-wrote 'A Golfer's Life' in 2000, a New York Times bestselling autobiography of Arnold Palmer. When we sat down with him on Wednesday, he reflected on the man who changed the game of golf and how he had gotten to know him personally throughout the last 20 plus years.
"I late 1994, I took my dad back to England and Scotland to play these golf courses where he learned to play golf during WWII," said Dodson. "He was dying of cancer, and I wrote a book about it, called Final Round. It was a surprise bestseller. Arnold called me - he asked me to meet he and Winnie (his wife) and wondered if I would write his autobiography for him and share the title page, because he loved Final Rounds."
Palmer's career rise towards the top of the PGA tour included plenty of time in North Carolina, including a stop in Wilmington.
"He had roots to North Carolina and Wilmington here. It was a very dear place, one of his first great wins. And he loved coming to Wilmington. And then Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Wake Forest were his other stomping grounds."
Dodson spent years with Palmer in the process of writing A Golfer's Life, but he wanted to make it different than his previous works. Dodson was also the autobiographer for Ben Hogan, and that book was nearly 500 pages, and so in chronicling Arnold's life, he wanted to make it unique.
"The terms I suggested for writing this book – I didn't want to do a conventional autobiography – a big 400 page book, 'I made this shot, I won this tournament.' Principally because his fans feel such intimacy to him. They feel so close to him. I said, let's write a book that's very warm, as if you're sitting with your fans after a round of golf, and you're having a cool drink, and you're sharing these ten or fifteen key moments of your life that shaped who you are. He liked that approach very much."
Palmer helped elevate the popularity of the game, after his time in the Coast Guard, and selling paint. He won four Masters, yet stayed grounded and humbled throughout all of his victories, according to Dodson, and the hundreds who have reflected on his life the past week.
"Arnold was a king with a common touch. He was someone who really understood the ordinary man because he was an ordinary man who had extraordinary things happen to him."