Category Archives: Arnold Palmer

The Most Rewarding Things You Do in Life Are Often the Ones that Look Like They Cannot Be Done

Arnold Palmer? John Sutton? Anonymous?

golf08Dear Quote Investigator: The following statement about overcoming obstacles is attributed to the famous golfer Arnold Palmer:

The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.

I am graduating soon and would like to use this as my yearbook quotation. The words are attributed to Palmer on several websites, but no citation is provided. Unfortunately, misinformation about quotations is rampant online as this website reveals. Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in an August 1966 speech delivered by Leslie B. Worthington who was the President of U.S. Steel Corporation. The full text of the address was printed in “The Baytown Sun” newspaper of Baytown, Texas. Worthington credited Arnold Palmer with the saying. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

As a friend of mine up in Pennsylvania — a pretty fair golfer by the name of Arnie Palmer — remarked some time ago: “The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1966 August 11, The Baytown Sun, U.S. Steel Boss Lauds Baytown Council, CC For Spur Action, (Article contains full text of speech delivered in Houston, Texas by Leslie B. Worthington who was the President of U.S. Steel Corporation), Quote Page 8, Column 4, Baytown, Texas. (NewspaperArchive)

The Harder I Practice, the Luckier I Get

Gary Player? Arnold Palmer? Jerry Barber? Jack Youngblood? Lee Trevino? Ethel Merman? L. Frank Baum?


Dear Quote Investigator: I am a fan of the golfing legend Gary Player, and the Wikipedia article about him says he: “Coined one of the most quoted aphorisms of post-War sport”:

The harder you practice, the luckier you get.

Is that true? Which golfer said it first? Was it Arnold Palmer?

Quote Investigator: Gary Player is a very fine golfer, but he is not responsible for this well-known maxim. The best evidence that he did not coin the adage is in a book written by Player himself in 1962 where he credits the aphorism to fellow golfer Jerry Barber. Before discussing that book QI will review support for Player and some other claimants to the phrase. The earliest instance of the expression found by QI that uses the word “practice” is not from a golfer. It appears in a memoir published in 1961 by a soldier of fortune during the Cuban revolution.

The saying is a popular motto and different versions can be grouped together in a family that stretches back to before 1900. Here are some examples:

The harder I practice, the luckier I get
The more I practice, the luckier I get.
The more they put out, the more luck they have.
The harder he works, the luckier he gets.
The more you know, the more luck you have.

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