If you follow golf, you are saddened with the news today of the passing of a legend and “The King” of golf, Arnold Palmer. Palmer was 87. Palmer was admitted on Thursday to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian for some cardiovascular work and weakened over the past few days.
Arnold Palmer won seven major championships during his professional career, which spanned more than five decades. He won the Masters four times -1958, 1960, 1962, and 1964, The Open twice – 1961 and 1962 and the U.S. Open once – 1960.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of Arnold Palmer, golf’s greatest ambassador,” the United States Golf Association said in a statement. “Arnold Palmer will always be a champion, in every sense of the word. He inspired generations to love golf by sharing his competitive spirit, displaying sportsmanship, caring for golfers and golf fans and serving as a lifelong ambassador for the sport.”
“Our stories of him not only fill the pages of golf’s history books and the walls of the museum but also our own personal golf memories. The game is indeed better because of him and, in so many ways, will never be the same.”
Palmer was born Sept. 10, 1929, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, the oldest of four children. His father, Deacon, became the greenskeeper at Latrobe Country Club in 1921 and the club pro in 1933.
Palmer began his professional career in 1954. He quickly picked up his first PGA Tour win at the 1955 Canadian Open in his rookie season, and his first-round 64 remained the best opening round of his career.
He went on to win 62 titles on the PGA Tour, fifth-most all time, and 92 including international and senior victories. He was PGA Player of the Year twice (1960 and ’62) and the tour’s leading money winner four times, with total tournament earnings of almost $7 million.
It’s hard to imagine anyone who has done more for the game of golf, than Arnold Palmer. He paved the way for the athletes of golf who followed in so many ways.
“There is no way to adequately express the immense sense of loss that we all feel with this news,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement to tour members. “It is not an exaggeration to say there would be no modern-day PGA Tour without Arnold Palmer. There would be no PGA Tour Champions without Arnold Palmer. There would be no Golf Channel without Arnold Palmer. … The fact that his popularity never waned more than a quarter-century after his last competitive victory speaks volumes to the man, the icon and the legendary figure he was.”
He was equally successful off the greens with golf course design, a wine collection and apparel that included his famous logo of an umbrella. He bought the Bay Hill Club & Lodge upon making his winter home in Orlando, Florida, and in 2007, the PGA Tour changed the name of the tournament to the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Added U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III: “When I think of Arnold Palmer, I think of his natural ability to relate to people, the close bond he had with his father and how, when I first came on tour, he made young professionals like me feel welcome. … He leaves an impact on the game and on sports in America that is unmatched.”
Adding words from “The Bear”, Jack Nicklaus:
“I was shocked to hear that we lost a great friend — and that golf lost a great friend,” Nicklaus said in a statement. “We just lost one of the incredible people in the game of golf and in all of sports.”
Said Nicklaus: “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. … 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.”
And finally words from Tiger Woods:
“It’s hard to believe that Arnold has passed, and I’m deeply saddened by his loss,” Woods said in a statement. “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.”
Palmer never won the PGA Championship. He finished one major short of capturing a career Grand Slam. But the standard he set went beyond trophies. It was the way he treated people, looking everyone in the eye with a smile and a wink. He signed every autograph and made sure it was legible. He made every fan feel like an old friend.
This is the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies which was named after Arnold’s first wife, Winnie. Arnold and Winnie were married for 45 years. Winnie passed in 1999 due to ovarian cancer
Palmer is survived by his second wife, Kit; his daughters, Amy (Roy) Saunders and Peggy (Stewart) Bryan; six grandchildren; numerous great-grandchildren; his brother, Jerry; and his sisters, Sandra Sarni and Lois “Cheech” Tilly.
God Bless the Palmer family! Our prayers our with you during these difficult times. May the spirit of “The King of Golf” live on!