Rita’s magical meeting with Arnold Palmer

Rita Fletcher with Arnold Palmer in 1993
Rita Fletcher with Arnold Palmer in 1993
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Golf lovers the world over will always cherish memories of the late, great Arnold Palmer – and one Fylde coast fan has a magical memento to help her remember ‘The King’, who died on Sunday, two weeks after his 87th birthday.

Ninety two-year-old Rita Fletcher from Lytham kindly shared with The Gazette this treasured signed photographer of herself with Palmer at Royal Lytham and St Annes in 1993.

Rita, who lives in Nookfield Close, is a life member at the Lytham Green Drive Club and was lady captain that year.

Palmer was at Royal Lytham 23 years ago for the Senior Open Championship, and his personal assistant Doris Scott introduced Rita to him while he was practising

Rita recalls: “Arnold was ever such a polite gentleman. He was practising his putting but he broke off to pose for a photograph with me.”

Blackpool-born Rita played herself for over 50 years and was a member at Knott End before joining Green Drive in 1980.

Palmer was a rookie member of the American Ryder Cup team which won at Royal Lytham in 1961.

But otherwise the world famous Linksgate course didn’t hold the best of memories for the great man.

Having conquered Birkdale in 1961 and Troon in 1962, Palmer arrived at Royal Lytham the following year bidding for a historic hat-trick of Open Championship titles.

But for once he wasn’t in contention as New Zealander Bob Charles lifted the Claret Jug.

And Charles got the better of Arnie again to win that Senior Open on the Fylde coast 30 years later, when not even a hug from Rita could inspire Palmer to win one title that eluded him.