Arnold Palmer and Jose Fernandez ‘Every life they touched they did so with a smile’

Matt Poe

The ability to judge the magnitude of someone’s life is a peculiar thing. Many of us go through life and don’t understand the impact we have on the people we know, the people we hope to know and the people we’ll never know.

The everyday intricacies of life bog us down, creating a veil that can forbade us from seeing just how much we can mean to others, just how much we can become with what we have.

But some people do radiate that feeling to the everyday world; figures who are larger than life but grounded in a reality that says, “I’m just like you.”

Arnold Palmer and Jose Fernandez are those type of people.

Even though they’re gone, they are still here. They leave a ripple effect long after they’ve left us. And while the pair may appear different on the outside, they are one in the same.

Arnie. The King. You don’t get a nickname like that for being some average Joe. He didn’t win the most majors or the most tournaments, but his impact on the game of golf pales to none.

Arnie was the first superstar of sports and the first to capitalize on the business side of sports (that drink you like, yeah, that’s him).

His golf career was ushered in at the dawn of television, and the two were a match made in heaven. The Pennsylvanian’s charisma won over fans, foes and everyone whose life he touched in his 87 years.

Arnie played his last U.S. Open in 1994, and I encourage you to go find video of that final round he played. You don’t have to be a golf fan or even a sports fan to understand what the man meant to those people.

That Friday in June 1994 was a celebration of his career on the course and his life off of it.

Just 23 months prior and roughly 1,400 miles south, a boy named Jose Fernandez was born in Santa Clara, Cuba.

Much like Arnie would do wonders with a white ball, this boy would do the same. But Cuba isn’t exactly known for golf, so Jose opted for baseball. And boy, did he make the right choice.

He would attempt to make his way to America for a better life for himself and his family. Three times he tried to defect from Cuba. Three times he was unsuccessful. But on his fourth try, he made it.

Jose, a pitcher, would go on to become a first round pick for the Miami Marlins, debuting in 2013 at just 20 years old and quickly becoming an all-star. He showed signs of a potential hall of fame career.

But a boating accident Sunday claimed his life and shattered one of the brightest futures in all of sports.

Arnie, fittingly, passed away Sunday on the final day of the PGA Tour season. They entered this world roughly 62 years apart, but exited together, mere hours apart.

Arnie and Jose did extraordinary things with their lives. Most of us wish we were even a tenth as good as Arnie on the putting green or Jose on the mound. Most of us will never be like them. But we can be like them off the field.

The two exuded a joy and enthusiasm for life, understanding how fortunate they were to end up where they did, and how hard they must work to stay there.

Every life they touched they did so with a smile, a laugh and the ability to infect others with those same traits. All of us can have that ability. We just need to remind ourselves more often of it.

So somewhere in the hereafter, Arnie just picked up his tee after piping his shot 265 yards down the middle of the fairway, his body the same as it was when he was in his 20s and 30s.

Jose, equally as strong and big, without ever sniffing old age, probably flashed Arnie a pearly smile and tried to send his ball past The King’s. The kid and The King then began to walk down the fairway, ready to play the next shot, eternal life, theirs.

Matt Poe is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].