Remembering Tournament Legend Arnold Palmer
The golf community received sad news on September 25. Arnold Palmer, aka The King, champion golfer and charmer who achieved many captivating tournament victories, died of heart complications in Pittsburgh at the age of 87.
Palmer was not only one of the most beloved and popular athletes on Earth, but he was also a celebrated businessman and fundraiser. The first athlete to receive honors such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Palmer became the president of Arnold Palmer Enterprises, which remodeled golf course around the world, and sold golf merchandise. He raised thousands of dollars for the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Women in Orlando, Florida, as well as for the Latrobe Hospital.
He made golf a more desirable sport among the post-WWII generation, and popularized the game overall. “He gave it a shot in the arm when the game needed it,” Jack Nicklaus said, who had a famous rivalry with Palmer.
For about six years in the late fifties to early sixties, Palmer dominated the game and was the ultimate face of golf. For seven seasons straight, he won seven major titles, including four Masters, one United States Open and two British Opens. To this day, he is only behind Sam Snead, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan when it comes to PGA victories. (He has 62) Palmer says he played his best in a big tournament. “For one thing, my game is better adapted to the tougher courses. For another, I can get myself more keyed up when an important title is at stake,” he said. “I like competition – the more rugged, the better.”
Many participated in sharing their memories of Palmer. “Here’s to The King who was as extraordinary on the links as he was generous to others,” President Obama said on Twitter. Former President George W. Bush also had kind words about the legend, saying, “For all who love the game of golf and love to see it played, there has never been a sight quite like Arnold Palmer walking down the fairway toward the 18th green.”
Palmer was married to Winnie Walzer (Palmer) for 45 years until her death in 1999. He remarried in 2005 to Kathleen Gawthorp, who survives him, along with two daughters, two sisters and a brother, and six grandchildren, including Sam Saunders, a pro golfer in his own right.
Some called him The King, others called him the James Bond of golf, but whatever title was bestowed upon him, he will be missed most of all because of the decent man he was.
Besides, how many people can say they have a drink named after them?