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A new biography depicts Arnold Palmer less as a hero, more as a human being

It is a common fault among the biographers of great athletes to stress the homely virtues of their protagonists with such monotonous persistency that greatness turns to pure ennui. Mark H. McCormack, who is Arnold Palmer's close friend, adviser, partner and manager as well as his biographer, avoids this literary hazard in Arnie (Simon and Schuster, $6.50). The world's most interesting golfer may love mom and apple pie as much as the next man, but if he does, Author McCormack doesn't plague us with the information. In his well-written biography, parts of which appeared in this magazine (March 6 et seq.), McCormack prefers to depict his friend as a fallible human being who tends to smoke far too much, drinks moderately, is a pushover for kids and social climbers, occasionally forgets what contracts he once signed and plays what may be the most brilliant golf game anywhere, except when he doesn't.

McCormack, who has managed Arnie's business affairs since 1959, has chronicled the complex world in which a pro golfer moves, and an intriguing, sometimes bewildering world it is. "He is the first athlete to become a walking, breathing, million-dollar corporation in his prime," McCormack says.

A chapter on the niceties and not-so-niceties involved in contract negotiations with the Wilson Sporting Goods Co., for example, could be an eye-opener for any law school student, whether he plays golf or not. Herein lies the charm of McCormack's book—it presents so many facets of Arnold to be considered, relished and appreciated. "Palmer the worrier and Palmer the comic. There is Palmer the tycoon and Palmer the debt-fearing head of household. There is Palmer the smoker and Palmer the nonsmoker. There is Palmer the archconservative and Palmer the perfectionist...Palmer the jet pilot...ambassador...confidant of corporation presidents...and Palmer the quiet tax-paying citizen of a small steel town called Latrobe."

Then there is that other human phenomenon known as Arnie's Army. The author tries manfully to come to grips with this delightful problem in human psychology. Who are they, these doggedly devoted fans? What draws them to this one golfer while another, perhaps playing better at the time, must plod his lonely way from tee to tee with only his caddie to cheer him on? McCormack can no more explain it than anyone else, but he makes a try. He proves, moreover, that whatever it is, Arnold Palmer has it. Readers who acquaint themselves with Arnie by way of this book may find themselves enlisted in the Army, without even suspecting it.