Watch: Tributes and More For Golfing Great Arnold Palmer
The golf icon from Latrobe, Pa. died Sunday of complications from heart problems.
Arnold Palmer, golf and television all came of age at the same time –– and were perfect for each other.
In the late 1950s, golf was considered a “rich man's game” played more often behind the gates of exclusive country clubs than on public courses. Television was still in its infancy when it came to covering live sporting events, and to many, golf lacked the excitement and speed of other sports such as football and baseball. Then came Arnold Palmer.
Palmer, who died Sunday of heart complications at 87, didn't play a golf course so much as he muscled it into submission.
“I watched this guy, he looked like Popeye hitting these drilling 9‑irons that were going about 12 feet high,” Jack Nicklaus said of Palmer the first time he saw his future rival on the practice tee in 1954.
From 1955 to 1973 Palmer won 62 PGA tournaments. Along the way, the Latrobe native attracted legions of ardent, loyal fans who came to be known as “Arnie's Army.” He marched along fairways with a confidence and swagger that was infectious –– and television ate it up. Palmer is widely considered the first sports superstar of the television age.
“Arnold transcended the game of golf. He was more than a golfer or even great golfer. He was an icon. He was a legend. Arnold was someone who was a pioneer in his sport. He took the game from one level to a higher level, virtually by himself. Along the way, he had millions of adoring fans—Barbara and I among them. We were great competitors, who loved competing against each other, but we were always great friends along the way. Arnold always had my back, and I had his. We were always there for each other. That never changed.
“He was the king of our sport and always will be.”
–– Jack Nicklaus
“I’m deeply saddened by his loss. He meant so much to the game and to me personally. I knew that I could always call him for advice, and I looked forward to seeing him at Bay Hill and the Masters.
Arnold touched so many people. My kids were born at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, and his philanthropic work will be remembered along with his accomplishments in golf. It was an honor and privilege to have known Arnold, and I’m forever grateful for his friendship.”
By The Numbers: Arnold Palmer
- 62 PGA Titles
- Masters Champion: 1958, 1960, 1962, 1964
- U.S. Open Champion: 1960
- The Open Championship (British): 1961, 1962