Golf legend Arnold Palmer and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning — a duo that might appear to only share athletic success as a connecting thread.
But to hear Manning say it, Palmer's effect on him has been immense, and he's tried to emulate his off-field approach after Palmer, considered one of the best to ever hit the professional links and a pioneer in the way he connected with the fans who've followed him every step of the way.
Golf Channel is following up on its 2014 series *Arnie *with a user-generated sequel, *Arnie & Me, *(debuting 8 p.m. MT Tuesday, March 17), and Manning's relationship with Palmer will be featured.
"Arnold Palmer knew how to treat his fans," Manning says. "He respected them with a wave, with a smile. My dad (former NFL quarterback Archie Manning) said Arnold was always available for an autograph or a picture."
Palmer, now 85 and retired from playing, is one of the most popular golfers in the game's history, known for the hordes of fans that followed him through his 92 career tournament victories.
One *Arnie & Me *segment details how Palmer's fan group was given the name "Arnie's Army" after serviceman Edward Batta volunteered to hold the gallery ropes at the 1959 Masters and drew the attention of the press. The writers described how soldiers cheered for Palmer, leading to the "Army" moniker.
Manning would likely scoff at any comparison between his and Palmer's popularity, but the similarities are there.
Manning is known for fan outreach as well and his "never too busy" approach, which he says has been modeled in part after the way Palmer did it.
"Arnold Palmer really set the bar for being available, being approachable and making that person feel special during that seven-to-10-second interaction of a handshake, an autograph or a picture," Manning says.
"He was keeping things and interacting with the fans early on, and the fact that he's still doing it today, that gives an athlete like me a lot of inspiration to try to keep interacting with the fans. He is unique in how he's handled his career on the golf course and certainly off the course as well."