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Where did that umbrella come from?

30 AUG 2017

By Peter Mumford

Sometimes you see things but your brain just doesn’t register what you’re seeing.

Such was the case with Arnold Palmer’s logo. I’ve probably seen Palmer’s signature or his name displayed hundreds of times over the past few decades – heck, maybe even thousands of times – but I’ve never really noticed the multi-coloured umbrella that always accompanies it.

Of course, as soon as it was drawn to my attention, I started noticing it everywhere: after his signature, on cans of the Arnold Palmer drink, on shirts and sweaters, in old photos, and even on the sign for the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando. That little umbrella was suddenly everywhere.


But where did it come from?

According to Palmer’s website, the logo was an inspiration that came to the legendary golfer during a brainstorming session with his business associates in Pennsylvania in 1961. Palmer had won the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills the year before and he and agent Mark McCormack were looking for a logo for their newly formed company, Arnold Palmer Enterprises.

They were attempting to brainstorm some kind of signature logo they could use on clothing, business stationery, golf clubs and so forth. In the preceding days the group had come up with a number of promising ideas ranging from crossed golf clubs to laurel leaves. But upon deeper investigation, they determined these symbols were either too commonplace to have any real meaning or they were already trademarked by other organizations. 

The frustration level in the meeting was rising and Arnie went to walk it off only to find it was raining outside.  He saw a lovely woman get out of her car and pop open a multi-colored umbrella. Arnie dashed back into the conference room.

"What about an umbrella?" he said.

A few weeks later their legal team was surprised and pleased to learn that nobody worldwide had trademarked the multi-panel umbrella symbol. Suddenly Arnie had his new company logo - an open golf umbrella done in four colors; red, yellow, white and green. 

A friend of mine actually made me aware of it. Dave Frantz is an avid golfer and a keen reader of Fairways Magazine, one who often comments on our articles. One day I received an umbrella pin in the mail with a note from Dave thanking me for something I had helped him with.

I called him up to express my gratitude for the pin, not really understanding the significance of it at the time. He explained that as a kid in the early sixties, he had been a caddy at a course outside Detroit and Arnold Palmer had come to participate in a pro am. Like many such exhibitions with a big name pro, Palmer played a few holes with each group, including the one that Dave was caddying for.

Dave says that Palmer was exceeding friendly and approachable. He spent time speaking to everyone, including the caddies, and gave everybody one of his umbrella pins.

That was it as far as Dave was concerned. He immediately became a lifelong Palmer fan and wanted to be like him, both as a golfer and a person. Ironically, Dave continued to caddy at events where Palmer played and later in life was a spotter with ESPN on golf telecasts but although he often saw Palmer play, he never met him again.

Shortly after Palmer died last September, Dave went looking for the umbrella pin he had received over 50 years ago and was devastated when he couldn’t find it. Eventually he contacted Arnold’s company in Latrobe, Pennsylvania and as he says, “A very nice lady took his name and said she would do what she could to help him find a replacement. Several weeks went by, then I received a package in the mail with a handful of gleaming little umbrella pins.”

Lots of people these days, from celebrities to athletes, have personal companies with iconic logos. But sometimes it’s difficult to separate the marketing glitz from the true meaning of the brand or the person. One thing that should be obvious to anyone who met him or knew about him was that Arnold Palmer was a unique individual who left an incredibly positive legacy, both in life and in golf. The iconic umbrella pin will forever serve as a reminder of Palmer and what he stood for to anyone who sees it.

And now that you know where that umbrella came from, it will be hard to overlook in the future.

Peter Mumford is the editor of Fairways Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @FairwaysMag