May 28, 2014 6:00am PT by Marisa Guthrie
Golf Channel Enlists Fans for Arnold Palmer Documentary (Exclusive)
A version of this story first appeared in the June 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Golf Channel knows its audience. The network is producing a follow-up to its Arnold Palmer documentary Arnie, its highest-rated original film, with the help of the golf legend's fans, who flooded its offices with letters recounting personal interactions with The King after the three-part series aired in April. That inspired the network to invite fans to share their favorite anecdotes about Palmer, now 84, for a fourth installment, targeted to air in spring 2015.
Palmer's legacy includes a warm rapport with his fans; he always stopped to sign autographs and pose for pictures. And the channel's three-part documentary looked at Palmer's continued correspondence with them. He has every letter he's ever received and responds to all of them, spending more than $100,000 annually on return postage. So it's little wonder that Palmer and Golf Channel — the network he co-founded 20 years ago — were deluged with letters when Arnie premiered. "About a week after the film started airing he started receiving crates of letters," recalls Golf Channel president Mike McCarley. "He always got letters. But this was a letter-writing blitz."
The concept for the film is similar to last year's Bruce Springsteen documentary Springsteen & I, which examined the rock star's career through the eyes of his fans. Golf Channel begins accepting submissions for the Dear Arnie initiative (also the documentary's working title) via GolfChannel.com and snail mail today (May 28) through the end of the year. Producers will film interviews with some fans recounting their stories. They're also anticipating plenty of home video submissions, many of the vintage variety. Palmer, who is 84, had his most successful competitive years in the 1960s.
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Adds McCarley: "It's just something we think is a really natural extension of a project that had an overwhelmingly positive impact on people."
Watch a clip from Arnie below.