Arnold Palmer was nicknamed “the King”, an appropriate moniker for someone who was golf royalty. Despite his status as one of the game’s greatest, he was as down to earth as they come, a quality that played a role in Palmer making golf accessible to all.
His wit and charming personality endeared him to many, creating a legion of loyal fans known as Arnie’s Army. And today they weep for a man who was an icon, not only of sport, but of life after he passed away yesterday at the age of 87.
As his agent, Alastair Johnson said in a statement, “Arnold Palmer’s influence, profile and achievements spread far beyond the game of golf. He was an iconic American who treated people with respect and warmth, and built a unique legacy through his ability to engage with fans.”
This is a player who dominated the sport of golf, accumulating 62 career victories on the PGA Tour, ranking him fifth all-time behind Sam Snead, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan. This includes a six-year stretch (1958-64) that saw Palmer win four Masters, two British Opens and a United States Open.
The legacy he left on the course was not only about the victories he amassed, but about the way he approached the game, with a passion and intensity that was unparalleled, all while incorporating his one-of-a-kind unorthodox swing. The NY Times remembered his style this way: “He did not so much navigate a course as attack it. If his swing was not classic, it was ferocious: He seemed to throw all 185 pounds of his muscular 5-foot-10 body at the ball. If he did not win, he at least lost with flair.”
He not only possessed a great game, but he had the dashing looks and charisma to match, making him an ideal person to serve as a champion of the sport to the masses who adored him like no other. As his longtime friend and fellow great Jack Nicklaus remarked, “Arnold popularized the game. He gave it a shot in the arm when the game needed it.”
Because of Palmer, golf became a sport not just for the elite, but for everyone. He was said to be generous to his fans, ensuring that those waiting in line to meet him ended up with an autograph and a memory to be cherished for a lifetime.
As great as he was on the course, Palmer was even greater off of it. He used his celebrity to raise money for the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Women in Orlando, Florida, as well as Latrobe Hospital in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where he was born. Palmer’s other charitable endeavors include working to end cancer; he lost his wife Winnie to the disease in 1999 and he suffered from it as well.
He also leaves behind more than 300 new or remodeled golf courses that he helped design worldwide as president of Arnold Palmer Enterprises. And, of course, there is the popular, refreshing drink named in his honor, the Arnold Palmer, which is a summertime staple for those of all ages.
None of these things would be possible if it were not for Palmer’s achievements on the course. He used those accomplishments to ensure that we remember him, not just for being an athlete, but for being a wonderful human being who made a lasting impact on this world.
Words of an Icon: “The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.” – Arnold Palmer