Arnold Palmer died yesterday. For many too young to know or remember, he burst on the scene when television was finding its legs. He wasn’t just good at golf; he turned it into entertainment for a horde of people who couldn’t tell the difference between a putter and a driver. His charisma created a persona that transcended the game. Someone said, “He made golf cool.” There may have been better technicians of the game, but his “aggressive risk-reward approach” to the game won him fans the world over.

Not too many people transcend their sport or business or discipline. You could say that Tiger Woods was one such person, but he has fallen off his pedestal. He has never looked like he was having any fun. Arnie had so much fun that legions of fans became his army, cheering him on at golf tournaments around the world.

Arnold Palmer wasn’t bigger than life just because he could play golf. Almost by force of will, he connected with the powerful and the common. He brought people together. When receiving the Congressional Gold Medal, he joked that finally there was something that the House and Senate were able to agree on. He offered golf tips to presidents and members of the galleries. One of his tips: “I have a tip that will take five strokes off anyone’s golf game. It’s called an eraser.”

In a day when life is so serious and complicated, it is inspiring to be influenced by someone who is in love with life. Joy is contagious. Perhaps that’s why it was so easy to pull for Arnie. He knew when to be focused and determined, but he could also be in the moment, sharing a laugh with fellow players or fans.

You and I may never have the same platform that Arnold Palmer occupied, but we can choose to live life with optimism and joy. As Christians, joy comes standard. Let it show. Spread it around.


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About Mark Wilbanks

Dr. Wilbanks became Wieuca’s fifth senior pastor in February of 2012. Mark’s father, Oliver Wilbanks, served as Associate Pastor here from 1966 to 1982. Wieuca had a tremendous influence in shaping Mark’s call to ministry during his teenage and young adult years. A graduate of both Southern and New Orleans Baptist Theological seminaries, Mark has served churches in Kentucky, Florida, and Georgia. He pastored Southside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida for 17 years and Bradfordville First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida for ten years. He and his wife, Kim, were married in 1979 and have two sons, Andy and Jordan. Andy is married to Lindsay and they have a son, Cade, a daughter, Ruthie, and welcomed their third child, Samuel, in October.

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