Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Community Chamber of Commerce to honor Arnie's pal 'Doc'
Donald “Doc” Giffin didn't grow up in the Latrobe area, but the Crafton native has adopted the home of his boss and friend, legendary golfer Arnold Palmer.
“It's beautiful country. I love it out here and have no yearning to go back to the city,” said Palmer's personal assistant. “It's a beautiful area in addition to having great people.”
In 1966, when Giffin was working as the PGA Tour press secretary, Palmer asked the former sports reporter to work for him.
“We get along very well and always have,” Giffin, 85, of Unity said of his famous boss. “It's just a pleasure coming to work every day.”
On Oct. 14, Giffin will be honored with the 2014 Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Community Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award.
Palmer, 84, said on Thursday that Giffin has been very community-oriented in his work, which includes correspondence, media requests and speech writing.
“He's been a very industrious guy for just short of 50 years now,” Palmer said. “When you stay together for 50 years, that's a pretty good indication that it's worked pretty well for all those years.”
Chamber President David Martin said that even in the short time he's been in the Latrobe area, Giffin's presence is widely felt.
“The more I talked to people in the area, the more his name would come up in support of local businesses and local charities,” Martin said. “He's just a special guy. If you don't know that from the first time you sit down and talk, it comes across clearly.”
Born in 1928, Giffin graduated from Crafton High School in 1946 and worked as a junior and senior for the school newspaper, where he earned his nickname, partially because of friends' association with his grandfather, who was a pharmacist.
He was sports editor, then editor of the Pitt News before graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 1950, then served in the Army during the Korean War.
“I was going to be a lawyer, but I was fortunate enough to get on the Pitt News as a freshman,” Giffin said. “I don't remember why I was so fortunate, but I did ... and fell in love with the newspaper business.”
For nine years, Giffin worked at the Pittsburgh Press, where he first learned of Palmer, before working for the PGA Tour.
Over the years, Giffin said he's particularly proud to have been recognized by the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association, the Tri-State Section of the PGA of America and the Metropolitan (N.Y.) Golf Writers Association.
Giffin said Palmer's office still receives at least two to three requests per day for memorabilia, appearances and autographs for charity fundraisers, estimating items have raised millions of dollars over the years.
“I think you need to help your community in whatever ways you can. Mine apparently has been more indirect,” he said.
Giffin said he appreciates all the opportunities he has had as Palmer's right-hand man, including interactions with those in and outside of the golf world — from Bob Hope to four presidents — Dwight Eisenhower, George H.W. and son George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.
“I consider myself a very fortunate man, to have been at the right place at the right time, made the right decisions,” he said. “It's been quite a thrill. It's been a wonderful lifetime.”
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.