ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Every week, it seems as if Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has a story about a celebrity or a sports legend with whom he has crossed paths. In more than 30 years as a college and professional athlete and coach, he’s crossed paths with quite a few.
Monday night on his weekly radio show on Ann Arbor’s WTKA-AM radio, Harbaugh recalled the two rounds of golf he played with Arnold Palmer, the legendary golfer who died Sunday in Pittsburgh. He was 87.
Harbaugh didn’t discuss Palmer’s golfing skills, or the best round he saw him shoot. Instead, Harbaugh recalled the way Palmer engaged with the golf fans who seemed to surround him constantly as he traversed each course.
“Twice, I got to play 18 holes of golf with him,” Harbaugh said. “He had a thing in the mid-1990s where the NFL players and the (PGA) Senior Tour players played, it was called the Cadillac NFL Golf Classic.
“He had a story at every hole. You talk about ‘Arnie’s Army,’ and it was an army. The interaction with the fans, I’ve never seen anything like it, since then or up to that, someone who really, thoroughly enjoyed talking to people in the gallery.”
At one point, Harbaugh walked down the fairway with Palmer during the 1995 tournament, surrounded by caddies, officials and an entourage, and Palmer said something prophetic.
“I think I’ve got 10 years of good living left,” Harbaugh recalled Palmer saying. “I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.”
“That was 20 years ago,” Harbaugh said. “He had an enthusiasm and a real zest for life.”