Tour Grind

Written by Douglas Towne Category: History Issue: June 2013
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When Papago Golf Course opened in the fall of 1963, Arnold Palmer was the toast of the Valley golf community, having won three consecutive Phoenix Open championships. Although Arnie’s legendary “army” of fans would continue to cheer for their hero every year, Palmer would never again claim victory at the tournament. But that didn’t mean Palmer didn’t keep trying, looking for every possible edge. In the early 1970s, John Pickrell owned Scotty’s Blacksmith and Machine Shop, located on the corner of Brown Avenue and Second Street in Scottsdale.

A few days before the start of the Phoenix Open, Pickrell was shocked to see Palmer walk into his grimy industrial space looking to have a little weight taken off his sand wedge. Pickrell confessed that he had never worked on a golf club.

PHM0613 PFHist3

The famous golfer told him not to worry, that he wanted to use the grinder himself. After donning goggles and gloves, Palmer ran the clubhead along the grinding wheel a few times, hefted the club for weight, and repeated the process. Finally satisfied with the feel, he thanked Pickrell and handed him a five-dollar bill. Asked where he had learned his machine skills, Palmer responded, “I grew up on a golf course where my father was the greenskeeper. I’ve always fixed my own clubs.