August 27, 2009

Arnold Palmer's Grandson Turning Pro

Life Grandpa, Like Grandson? Sam Saunders Certainly Hopes So.

The apple never falls far from the tree, it is said, and this much appears to be true for Arnold Palmer's grandson Sam Saunders. He announced recently that he will skip his senior season of the college game and intends to turn professional sometime in the near future, play in some PGA events and then attempt to earn his card at the annual PGA Qualifying school.

Saunders had been playing for the Clemson University golf team, and has had an up-and-down career for the Tigers. He was all-regional last season on a top-5 team, but this year, he was replaced as a starter in over half of Clemson's matches. His coach, Larry Penley told the Columbia, SC State that "[Saunders] needed another challenge is the best way to put it. He was spinning his wheels playing golf, looking for bigger and better things to do.”

Now, Saunders plans to play golf for a living.

He told reporters that the college life was not for him, and that he had had trouble balancing his academic life and the needs of his golfing career. He also added that essentially he had wanted to quit and turn pro two years ago, but after a discussion with his parents, he had promised to attend Clemson for another couple of years. Now that he's fulfilled that promise, Saunders "wants to do it my way."

Of Saunders game, Coach Penley said the he and his assistant “tried to straighten out Sam’s ball flight, but it never took for him (and) he didn’t see it was an issue. His swing relies a lot on timing. When it was on, he was really good; when not, it was kind of tough for him.”

Penley, who also coached Jonathon Byrd and US Open Champion Lucas Glover, undoubtedly has an eye for a good golf swing, and his analyses accurate and his teaching effective. Obviously, Byrd and Glover benefitted from their years under his tutelage, but Penley could not confer the same skills improvement to Saunders.

Soon, it will be on to real life for the young man, where he will be judged solely by his results, and in a place where he may well find that his lineage is more bane than boon. While being Arnold Palmer's grandson will certainly open doors that would go unanswered for other unheralded prospective professionals, Saunders may find that expectations are higher and that he'll be initially judged more by comparison to Palmer than to his peers. If he can prosper, then the comparisons will be positive. If he struggles, statements not unlike "he's not his granddaddy" will follow him like a dark curse.

But at least he'll be doing it his way.


  1. Good Luck to Sam. He will have to work a bit harder than the others because of his heritage..but if he knows himself he will do fine. No one can live up to Arnie.

  2. Still trying to figure why Sam went to Clemson and his sister went to Florida State. Meanwhile, they have named buildings and cities after Arnold Palmer at his ACC alma mater, Wake Forest.

    Sam sounds like a hard head. Probably could have used a good talking to by great-grand dad, the 'Deacon'...

  3. Vince - three words - studies versus parties :-)

    Arnie never graduated from Wake, though he has supported the school to this day.

    That's a lot of pressure - being at the same school where one of the greatest golfers of all time matriculated.

  4. Partying too much? That's great. I thought maybe he was just dumb as shit.

  5. Court - bet you don't remember that Palmer went to Wake Forest when it was *in* Wake Forest. The old buildings are the Southeastern Baptist Seminary now.

    Vince - I don't really think of Clemson as a party school, except on game days. It's a pretty serious engineering school that has really worked hard on improving its academics.

    Hard to believe one week from tonight, I will be at a college football game, covering it for my other site.

  6. Palmer also was roommates with Jim Flick in college.

    Lot of golf horsepower in that dorm room.

  7. CB - I actually knew that about Wake. Used to live in Durham and got a pretty good education in ACC territory. :-)

    Clemson HAS a very good engineering school and a great computer science school - but they also have the usual degree programs that provide classes for the party kids. They aren't Georgia Tech.

    Which game will you be at ?


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