Arnie returns to T.O.

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 6:53 AM ET

When a member of Arnie's Army stepped into Arnold Palmer's wider-than-usual line of fire yesterday, the golf legend took a page out of his lengthy book of one-liners.

"If you've seen me hit golf balls lately, you wouldn't stand there," the 76-year-old told an admirer at Weston Golf and Country Club at the Return of the King charity event.

Self-effacing, chatty and crowd-pleasing, Palmer wrapped up his two-day stay in Toronto to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his first career pro victory at Weston by hitting three tee shots for the members-only gallery.

The 62-time PGA Tour winner showed why he always has been a fan favourite in front of a crowd featuring many people sporting Arnie's Army pins and drinking cans of Arnold Palmer Half and Half -- iced tea and lemonade.

"This hole looks a helluva lot longer than it did 50 years ago," Palmer said before putting his first tee shot down the middle of the fairway at No. 1.

He hit a couple of more balls, held a 45-minute news conference and then left town after a visit which included an unveiling of a life-size statue of Palmer hugging the Canadian Open trophy and a stop at Sick Children's Hospital.

Weston president Robb English granted Palmer an honorary lifetime membership to the club, prompting Arnie to quip, "Don't be surprised if I show up. I won't have to pay greens fees, will I?"

Then, after seeing the statue, Palmer shook hands with his likeness and said, "I'm going to sit there through the winter and the weather and everything. I won't need to head south at all."

After stepping inside to meet reporters, Palmer was asked if he was happy with his tee shots.

"I had about four hours sleep, a lot less than I usually have, I had my dress shoes on, I couldn't bend over, my arms were sore and my head was sore," he said.

"Hell, I thought I hit it pretty good."

The King was back at Weston, and so were a few hundred of his countless fans for an hour of fun.

"I guess that is probably one of the most humbling things that happens to me, the fact the fans have been so supportive and so responsive to what I do and where I'm going," Palmer said. "Frankly, that's probably the reason I'm here. I suppose if (the support) were a lot less, I'd kind of hibernate."


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