Arnold Palmer endeared himself to fans through his charismatic and down-to-earth style. When the game first flickered over television sets everywhere, Palmer was the first to stir audiences with his come-from-behind wins. He helped start a nationwide love of golf that has turned it into one of the most popular sports.
The strongly-built young man concentrated on golf in high school and soon was dominating the game in Western Pennsylvania. He won his first of five West Penn Amateur Championships when he was 17, competed successfully in national junior events and went to Wake Forest University (then College), where he became No. 1 man on the golf team and one of the leading collegiate players of that time. Deeply affected by the death in an auto accident of his close friend and classmate, Bud Worsham, younger brother of 1947 U.S. Open Champion Lew Worsham, Arnold withdrew from college during his senior year and began a three-year hitch in the Coast Guard. His interest in golf rekindled while he was stationed in Cleveland. He was working there as a salesman and playing amateur golf after his discharge from the service and brief return to Wake Forest when he won the U.S. Amateur in 1954 following his second straight victory in the Ohio Amateur earlier that summer.
on leave from his yeoman duties, 1953
9th District Auxiliary office
Source U.S. Coast Guard historical photo
Author U.S. Coast Guard
Coast Guard in 1953
Arnold Palmer poses with the Havemeyer Trophy
1954 U.S. Amateur
Country Club of Detroit in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.
Arnold Palmer is a golf legend. His victory in the 1954 U.S. Amateur Championship was a springboard to a professional golf career that has spanned four decades of accomplishments. Many best remember his four year stretch from 1960 to 1963 when landed 29 of his titles and twice represented the U.S. in the prestigious Ryder Cup Match, serving in 1963 as the victorious captain. He has amassed 92 championships in professional competition, and was honored with the title, “Athlete of the Decade” for the 1960’s.
Palmer began his golf career at the age of four when he was swinging his first set of golf clubs cut down by his father, Milfred Palmer who worked at the Latrobe Country Club. Arnie was caddying at age 11, and it didn’t take long before he was playing well enough to beat the older caddies at the club.
(© 2000 Audible Difference)
Beside the magnificent performance record, his magnetic personality and unfailing sense of kindness and thoughtfulness to everybody with whom he comes in contact have endeared him to millions throughout the world and led to the informal formation of the largest non-uniformed "military" organization in existence - Arnie's Army. Seven of his victories came in what the golfing world considers the four major professional championships. He won the Masters Tournament four times, in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964; the U.S. Open in spectacular fashion in 1960 at Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver and the British Open in 1961 and 1962. He came from seven strokes off the pace in the final round in that U.S. Open win and has finished second in four other Opens since then. Among the majors, only the PGA Championship has eluded him. He has finished second in the PGA three times.
the greatest comeback in the championship's history
Arnold Palmer tosses his visor into the air
1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills C.C.
Back seat: Pros Gary Player, Bob Fry and Jack Rule
Front seat: Pro Arnold Palmer, Heisman Trophy winner John Lujack
and unknown driver
Palmer-Player Exhibition match, 1960's
Emeis Golf Course in Davenport, Iowa
Before he jauntily strolled into our consciousness, golf was a rich man's game. Strictly country club. Golfers who talked to the common folk had to have their noses lowered first. Then came Arnold Palmer. Arnold Palmer won his first event on the Senior Tour. Here was a guy who looked like one of us. A guy who was rough around the edges. He was a big hitter with an iffy short game. Just like us. His contortions looked like ours. He had that wild swing, that crooked smile. There was the way he'd hitch up his slacks. When he missed a shot, we missed. He was almost always coming from behind, making that charge. Just like we wanted to do. When he won, we all won. At a time when television was first coming into our homes, Arnie was the guy next door. He came into our living rooms with an approachability, grittiness and charisma that made us want to watch golf. Heck, it made us want to golf.
"In a sport that was high society," broadcaster Vin Scully said, "he made it `High Noon.' " We pulled for him in at the 1960 Masters. It appeared the victory would go to Ken Venturi, who was sitting in Butler Cabin with a one-stroke lead. But Palmer, with those big drives and pigeon-toed putts, tied him by rolling in a 27-footer on 17. Then another birdie on 18 gave him the stunning victory. It was the sort of finish that led the legendary Bobby Jones to say, "If I ever had to have one putt to win a title for me, I'd rather have Arnold Palmer hit it for me than anybody I ever saw."
Two months later at Cherry Hills Country Club outside Denver, Palmer overcame a seven-shot deficit on the last day to win the U.S. Open. Driving the par-four first green, he went on to get six birdies on the first seven holes in firing a blazing 30 on the front nine. His 6-under 65 gave him the victory by two strokes over Jack Nicklaus. A toss of his visor into the air galvanized Palmer's legend. He had become "The King" -- a king for the masses. We became a part of Arnie's Army.
(By Ron Flatter, Special to ESPN.com)
1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont (Pa.) C.C.
When Nicklaus beat Palmer in the 1962 U.S. Open playoff, it may have signaled a changing of the guard. It also marked the beginning of a great rivalry. Nicklaus would end up dominating, but all the while, Palmer was always there to hound him.
Along with the Army came the riches of bigger purses, increasing from $820,360 in 1957 to $3,704,445 in 1966. Palmer became golf's first millionaire. That was on the course.
Off the course, he was becoming the sport's first big-time businessman -- everything from the International Management Group agency to golf-course design to clothing to auto dealerships to The Golf Channel. Golf itself became a financial empire because of Palmer. Veteran golfer Charles Sifford said that every pro should pay homage. "If it wasn't for Arnold, some of these scraggly wimps would be out picking cotton today," he said. "If they realized what he meant to golf, they'd get down and kiss his feet."
When he won his last major, the 1964 Masters, Palmer was golf's career money leader with $506,496. It would be another four years before Palmer would just about double that total to become golf's first career millionaire. Even though Palmer eclipsed that seven-figure milestone at the 1968 PGA Championship, it was a bittersweet achievement. He lost the tournament by one stroke to Julius Boros, and that would be as close as he would come to winning a PGA Championship. It was the only major he never won.
Palmer's close calls are as legendary as his victories. He needed only a par on the final hole to win the 1961 Masters. Instead, he double-bogeyed, and Gary Player won.
At the 1966 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, he had a five-stroke lead going to the 69th hole. Incredibly, he lost all five strokes on the next three holes and fell into a tie with Billy Casper. In the playoff the next day, Palmer was ahead by two strokes with eight holes left but lost by four.
(By Ron Flatter, Special to ESPN.com)
1966 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco
His putter started to fail him in the mid- and late-60s, but Palmer's business acumen had already begun to emerge. He became sport's pre-eminent pitchman. By the late '90s, his annual endorsement income approached $15 million -- more than three decades after his last major victory.
(By Ron Flatter, Special to ESPN.com)
Special event at Latrobe Country Club, 1968
Uploaded By: marty_az22
Copyright 2009 USGA
approach shot to the 9th green
Final U.S. Open round in 1994 at Oakmont (Pa.) C.C
Arnold Palmer gives his patented thumbs-up gesture
2002 U.S. Senior Open
Caves Valley outside Baltimore, MD.
2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont (Pa.) C.C.
Four-time Masters champion Arnold Palmer
2009 Masters Tournament
honorary starter for the 1st round
Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
PALMER RECEIVES CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL
President Barack Obama signs the Arnold Palmer Gold Medal Act
Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009.
Looking on from left are: Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania
Arnold Palmer, Mrs. Kathleen Palmer, Rep. John Tanner of Tennessee
Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida
Rep. Joe Baca of California (at front)
Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton
© 2009 Arnold Palmer.com
The award will make Palmer the first sports person in history to receive all 3 of the United States highest civilian honors including the National Sports Award from former President Bill Clinton in 1993 (a one-time award) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President George W. Bush in 2004.
Palmer will become the fifth athlete to receive the honor from Congress, which is considered the highest expression of national appreciation for achievements and contributions. Byron Nelson is the only other golfer to receive the medal, which was given posthumously in 2006.
The Arnold Palmer Gold Medal Act, H.R. 1243, was introduced by Congressman Joe Baca (D-California) and first passed the House of Representatives in April and was unanimously passed by the Senate on Palmer's 80th birthday on September 10th. U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., who lives in Orlando, sponsored the Senate bill nominating Mr. Palmer for the medal. Such bills must be cosponsored by at least two-thirds of the members of the House and 67 in the Senate before even being considered in the respective chambers.
(By scurry at September 30, 2009 12:28 PM at Arnold Palmer.com)
There can only be one King, and Palmer is he. Simply put, Palmer was a rock star playing golf. Not only did he put up the numbers of a champion, including seven major titles, Palmer had it all. He was handsome, charming and literally reeked of charisma. His arrival when the U.S. was just tuning in to television was invaluable, both for him and for golf. His swing would have been an ugly monstrosity for anyone else, but with him, it was a thing of beauty. His loyal fans, "Arnie's Army" will quickly agree - no one was more important to the game of golf in the past half century.
Palmer didn't invent golf, just grace and golf, just television and golf. Raymond Floyd says, "Arnold was the epitome of a superstar," even before that word was coined. "He set the standard for how superstars in every sport ought to be, in the way he has always signed autographs, in the way he has always made time for everyone." In his patience. In his decency.
"On the golf course," Floyd says, "all I ever saw was a mass of people. I saw, but I didn't see. He was able to focus in on everyone in the gallery individually. It wasn't fake." He was able to make eye contact with the entire world.
Once, he was a tremendous driver. "Oh, man," Floyd says, "one of the best drivers of the golf ball in history. Long and straight." Once, he charged putts like he charged everything. "I don't think," Floyd says, "I ever saw him leave a putt short."
"I always thought Arnold was a good iron player, too," says Jack Nicklaus, who stood in the rain and watched Palmer hitting irons even before Jack knew who he was. This was outside Toledo in 1954. Neither the 24-year-old amateur champion on the range nor the 14-year-old dreamer on the hill had any idea they would someday be hyphenated.
"I just saw a young, strong guy," Nicklaus says, "who hit the ball hard, beat it hard -- beat it into the ground." A beater of the ball originally, Palmer became a swinger of the club eventually. He was knocking down 9-irons and 7-irons under the storm. Nicklaus was drenched to the skin. "Oh, that's Arnold Palmer," he said later.
From then on, Jack followed Arnold from afar, just like everyone else in and out of golf, as old black telephones on copy desks in sports departments jangled with one question: "What did Arnie do today?"
(By Tom Callahan at September 2009 Golf Digest)
Honorary Doctor of Laws, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC
Honorary Doctor of Humanities, Thiel College, Greenville, PA
Honorary Doctor of Laws, National College of Education, Evanston, IL
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Florida Southern College, Lakeland, FL
Senior PGA Tour wins:
1980 PGA Seniors' Championship
1981 U.S. Senior Open
1982 Marlboro Classic, Denver Post Champions of Golf
1983 Boca Grove Classic
1984 General Foods PGA Seniors' Championship, Senior Tournament Players Championship, Quadel
1985 Senior Tournament Players Championship
1988 Crestar Classic
Other senior wins:
1984 Doug Sanders Celebrity Pro-Am
1986 Union Mutual Classic
1990 Senior Skins Game
1992 Senior Skins Game
1993 Senior Skins Game
Arnold palmer now resides near his golf course, Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Country Club and Lodge, in Orlando, Florida.