COURTESY OF MEG SPERRY
John Gemmell, Jr. after winning the 1976 Cape Fear Country Club Championship, in Wilmington. Arnold Palmer enlisted in the United States
Coast Guard in 1950 as a yeoman and served until 1953. Though a yeoman the Coast Guard allowed him to continue to play golf. Here, he is
playing in the 1953 North and South Amateur Golf Championship held at Pinehurst Country Club, Pinehurst, N.C.
Memories of Arnold Palmer
FROM CADDIE JOHN GEMMELL JR.
During the 1956-58 PGA Azalea Open
Invitational Tournaments in Wilmington
RNOLD’S first appearance at the Azalea Open was in 1954 as an
amateur. He placed seventh and then went on that same year to
win the U.S. Amateur. In 1956, he returned to Wilmington as a
professional and played here for three consecutive years: 1956,
’57 and ’58, and I caddied for him each of those years. He did
not return after those three years. Young club members at the Cape Fear Coun-try
Club got first choice as caddies for the tournament because we played there
and knew the course well. In the 1956 event, I was slated to caddie for Sam
Snead, but he withdrew, so I was assigned to Palmer, whom I had never met.
I was a sophomore at New Hanover High School that first year in 1956. I
knew that Arnold had won the 1954 U.S. Amateur and that his only PGA
victory was the Canadian Open the previous year. Other than that, neither
I nor anyone else knew much about Arnold. He didn’t really start making
headlines until his victory at the Masters in 1958.
Each of his three years here, both Arnold and his wife, Winnie, were
guests at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Graham Barefoot on Forest Hills Drive. I would meet
Arnold at the course each morning to hit range balls and practice his putting before tee time. He was always
happy, in a good mood and enthusiastic but very focused, and he expected me to be the same.
22 september 2022
U.S. COAST GUARD HISTORICAL PHOTO
COURTESY OF CAPE FEAR COUNTRY CLUB