LEMONT (Illinois): Tiger Woods passed Arnold Palmer on the U.S. PGA Tour’s career victory list last year, and some found it surprising how the King chose to congratulate him.

“We’ve had a couple of text messages back and forth,” Palmer said.

If it’s hard to imagine Palmer punching his thumbs on a cell phone to send a text, another sign of the times comes on Thursday when Palmer celebrates his 80th birthday.

How to mark the big occasion? Of course, by playing golf.

Palmer was in Orlando, Florida for some weekend festivities. He threw out the first pitch on Tuesday at a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game.

Then, he retreated to his home in western Pennsylvania for golf and dinner on Wednesday at Laurel Valley. His office said he would play golf with friends on Thursday at Latrobe Country Club.

Greatest passion

That’s where Palmer learned to play golf. After all these years, it remains his greatest passion.

“I think of him as the greatest amateur-professional who ever lived,” long time friend Dow Finsterwald said in this month’s issue of Golf Digest.

“By that I mean he never stopped playing the game for the love of it, like an amateur. Sure, he liked making a nice living. But he loved to play. Still does.”

Jack Nicklaus, a close friend and rival, met up with him at the Masters this year and the conversation turned to golf. Nicklaus asked how he was playing and Palmer told him, “Horrible.”

Nicklause asked “how much are you playing?” He said: “every day.” — AP

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