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Jay Busbee

Arnold Palmer will take his final flight next week

Jay Busbee
Devil Ball Golf

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Here's another one of those getting-old-really-bites stories. Next Monday, Arnold Palmer will pilot his final flight.

Palmer, an avid pilot, has flown just under 20,000 hours in his life, and as Golf Local Knowledge notes, he'll bring it to a close on Jan. 31. His pilot's license expires on that day, and he won't be renewing it.

While most top-line players now have access to their own private planes, Palmer wasn't content to ride; he had to pilot. He flew through most of the '60s and '70s, and as Local Knowledge points out, he knew what the heck he was doing:

In 1969, Palmer piloted a Boeing 747 before the aircraft had gone into commercial service. In 1976, he set a round-the-world speed record that still stands. Taking off from Denver in a Lear 36 and heading east, Palmer circumnavigated the globe in 57 hours, 25 minutes and 42 seconds.

"The people there when Arnold took off were still there when he returned," laughs Doc Giffin, Palmer's longtime assistant and chronicler of Palmer's aviation exploits. The flight included brief refueling stops in Boston, Paris, Tehran, Sri Lanka, Jakarta, Manila, Wake Island and Honolulu. "The stops were brief, but Arnold had time to ride an elephant in Sri Lanka, and in Manila he was given a gift from President Ferdinand Marcos that he still has."

Yet another astonishing element of an astonishing life. Palmer may be finishing off this chapter, but once again, it's a cooler chapter than almost anyone else has ever lived.

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