Benedictine abbot was at Arnold Palmer’s bedside when he died

Arnold Palmer acknowledging the crowd on the 18th during the Champions Challenge at St Andrews, Fife, in 2015 (PA)

Archabbot Douglas Nowicki said prayers and blessed the golf legend shortly before he died

Benedictine Archabbot Douglas Nowicki of St Vincent’s Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, was with Arnold Palmer when the golfing great died on September 25 in Pittsburgh.

It wasn’t the first time Archabbot Nowicki had visited Palmer that day. Palmer, 87, was in a hospital awaiting a heart operation scheduled for September 26. “I went to say a prayer and give him a blessing. About an hour after I’d departed, I got a call” that Palmer’s health was failing rapidly, the archabbot told Catholic News Service in a September 26 telephone interview.

Even though Palmer was a lifelong Presbyterian, he’d had a relationship with St Vincent’s spanning more than 50 years, when Archabbot Nowicki himself was in the high school at the archabbey.

Palmer did not let denominational differences deter him. “Arnie sort of appealed to everyone. There were no barriers, race, colour, creed — those were things that never entered into” his mind, Archabbot Nowicki said. “He was welcoming to everybody and treated everyone with tremendous warmth and respect.” Palmer came with his wife on occasion to the arch abbey’s 7.30 a.m. Sunday Mass.

“I remember him coming here on one occasion after winning several of the golf tournaments early in his career. He was hitting golf balls for the students. By then he had a fairly good reputation,” Archabbot Nowicki recalled. “He would give a little demonstration. I remember when he was doing it they put a little trash pail out in the middle, about 150 yards out, and he was hitting balls out and he got about five in the tanker,” he chuckled.

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