Arnold Palmer The King Of Golf Dies At 87
This morning British golf fans woke up to the very sad news of the passing of one its true greats, Arnold Palmer, ‘The King’.
At the age of 87, the man from Pensylvannia, who alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player transformed golf into the global game we know today, died in hospital near his home in Pennsylvania.
The tributes have already come flooding in – notably from Nicklaus himself who said, “He was one of my best friends, closest friends and he was for a long, long time. I will miss him greatly. Arnold transcended the game of golf. He was more than a golfer or even a great golfer. He was an icon.”
A look at his list of achievements only tells part of the story.
Palmer won seven major Championships, four of them at Augusta National.
He also won two Open Championships where his commitment to the event during a time when many top Americans refused to travel to the UK, prevented the importance of the Claret Jug from waning.
Arnold Palmer however was about far more than the results on the scorecard.
He arrived in the winner’s circle at just the right time, winning his first Masters in 1958.
Before this, golf’s major super power was Ben Hogan but his last
Major wins were in 1953.
If the game was to grow it needed a new spearhead, a character capable of engaging people from different backgrounds and with different interests.
Palmer, with his swashbuckling brand of golf, was that man.
Aggressive and exciting, Palmer played golf on a knife-edge, carefully tip-toeing his way between triumph and disaster.
Indeed his fallibility, his capacity for mistakes when some the biggest moments arrived allowed the golfing public to connect with Palmer. He wasn’t perfect and the public loved him for it.
Throw in his flowing swing and movie star good looks and you had a talisman for the game, the likes of which we have rarely seen since.
Of course the press responded too and Palmer appeared on the front cover of Sports Illustrated 12 times and became one of the few sportsmen to make it onto the front cover of Time Magazine.
That his passing should come on the final day of the Fed-Ex Cup play-offs, when today’s greats fight for a $10 million bonus prize, is in many ways rather fitting.
Palmer forged a rivalry with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player that captivated the world.
‘The Big Three’ as they were known travelled the world having signed up for a sports agent by the name of Mark McCormack.
The founder of IMG, marketed golf’s three biggest stars in an age when television had the ability to connect them with the audience. This was golf’s version of the Beatles.
All of us working in golf, but particularly those earning millions competing on the world stage owe a huge debt of gratitude to ‘The King’.
His unique brand of ‘go-for-it’ golf and willingness to travel, opened the game to a new audience, revealing a glamorous, high octane side to the game.
It is quite possible that nobody will ever do more for the game than Arnold Palmer.