Arnold Palmer jetted into Prince George's County yesterday to court his two loves -- golf and an adoring public.
Before a gallery of about 400 fans, Palmer played local pro Jim Seeley in an 18-hole exhibition on the $3.4 million golf course that Palmer helped design for the new Prince Georges Country Club in Mitchellville.
"Do you want to tell these people why you're so good?" Seeley asked as he and Palmer warmed up on the practice green.
"Why I'm so good at what?" Palmer deadpanned.
"At what you do so well," Seeley said.
"Oh, at designing golf courses? Of course," Palmer said to a chorus of laughter.
It was clearly Arnie's Army.With no major tournament victory since 1973, the master still could laugh at himself and the fans could laugh with, not at, him.
Golf still is his first love, he said.
"I'm very happy to be able to play and enjoy it," he said. "I feel pretty good about my game. I'm hitting the ball pretty well. Maybe not as far as I'd like to, but my average is good. I'm playing under 70. I'm playing better golf."
He said he runs two to three miles a day because "it makes me feel better, it keeps my weight down. Eventually it will help me play better golf but I don't think it's an immediate help to my golf now." He said he never runs on a day he plays a tournament because if affects his coordination.
"I play some senior tournaments and some of the regular tour events.I'll play in the British Open. In addition to that I'll be defending my championship in the PTG (Seniors) and playing in the U.S. Opens Seniors in Detroit," he said of his future plans.
He will forgo the Kemper tournament here next week because of a commitment to play in the Duke Children's Pro Am in Durham, N.C.
The Kemper just happened to fall at the same time . . . it's a tough situation," he said.
Appearing trim and tan, Palmer strode across the course that has been five years in the making with the vigor of a man much younger than his 51 years. When completed, the course will have 27 holes dominated by a 60-acre man-made lake stocked with blue gill and bass.
Palmer said the course will measure 7,100 yards, have water on five holes and will average 7,000 square feet of green.
Since 1971, he has designed 53 golf courses and consulted on 22 others through his company, Palmer Course Design Co.
Ed Seay, one of the architects in Palmer's firm, said 34 other courses are under way and that Palmer has 25 percent ownership of Golf America which owns the land for the Prince Georges course.
The round concluded with Palmer shooting an even-par 72. Seeley, the 38-year-old pro at the club, had a 76.