The legendary Arnold Palmer will be the guest of honour at the World Golf Hall of Fame in Florida this October, as he takes part in a ceremony to honour Mark McCormack, the man who played a major role in making him golf’s first worldwide superstar. McCormack, known to millions of sports fans and players as the father of sports marketing and management, has been posthumously elected into the elite group of the game’s most influential figures, and the man who became his first client in 1960 will deliver what is sure to be an emotional speech to mark the occasion.
McCormack played a pivotal role in promoting Palmer as an international sporting superstar, making his client one of the most recognisable sporting faces in the world during the 1960s. The more valuable by-product of this was the transformation of golf from a regionalised, minority sport into a game enjoyed by millions all around the globe. McCormack used his skill at marketing to enable Palmer, and golf, to reach corners of the world where it had thus far failed to make an impression. As a result of his efforts, every famous and well-rewarded top professional of the last 45 years is in his debt.
In 1966 McCormack launched TWI – the media branch of his company IMG. It became the largest non-networked producer of televised sport, and by his death in 2003 it was responsible for producing and exporting over 10,000 hours of sport per year to more than 200 countries. Golf was his major passion, and the effect his company had on the sport was dramatic – the sport of golf, which up until 1960 was mainly confined to the UK, USA, Australia and South Africa, was now accessible to people in golfing backwaters everywhere.
McCormack, himself a good enough golfer to qualify for the 1958 US Open as an amateur, is also credited with the founding of the World Matchplay Championship at Wentworth in 1964 and the Official Golf World Rankings. Launched by McCormack in 1986, the World Ranking System is still the barometer by which all professional golfers are measured.
His career was as long as it was distinguished. In 1996, some 36 years after shaking hands with Palmer, McCormack negotiated the first professional contract of a young golfer named Tiger Woods.
“Very few things could have pleased me more than hearing the news that Mark has been chosen for induction into the World Golf hall of Fame,” Palmer said.
“Not only did Mark play integral parts in the success I and many other golfers and sportsmen have enjoyed, but just as important to me, he was a close and loyal friend. It’s just too bad that he isn’t around to enjoy the moment.”