The Life and Times of Arnold Palmer
Arnold Daniel Palmer, came into this world on September 10th, 1929. Born in Latrobe, a small steel mine town in Pennsylvania, Palmer was introduced to golf at a young age by his father “Deacon” who was the green keeper at Latrobe Country Club and later went on to become the head professional. Palmer would often be seen accompanying his father around the golf course, picking up a love for the game at which he became famous.
Arnold affectionately known as Arnie attended Wake Forest College on a golf scholarship, but left in 1950 following the tragic death of his close friend Bud Worsham. It was after this tragedy that Palmer enlisted in the US Coast Guard and served for 3 years, whilst maintaining his love of the game.
After winning the US Amateur in 1954 beating Robert Sweeney Jr by the slender margin of a single hole, Palmer felt ready to challenge himself on the professional circuit, and it was the 17th November 1954 that the world of golf would be changed forever by one of the game’s greatest players. Upon turning professional Palmer was quoted as saying “what other people find in poetry, I find in the flight of a good drive”.
It was in 1954 that Palmer married his first wife, and mother to two daughters, Winifred Walzer who he was married to for 45 years until her death in 1999.
Palmer´s first win came in his rookie season, the 1955 Canadian Open for which he earned a respectable $2,400$, but it was not the win that got him noticed, it was his demeanour, charisma, character and his aggressive style that got him noticed.
Widely regarded as the man that got golf noticed, taking golf into the mainstream Palmer´s likeability was infectious, crowds were growing and the number of tournaments being screened on TV was increasing. Golf was reaching the masses like never before.
Mike McCormack saw the potential that Arnold had and quickly signed him as his first client.
Palmer continued to win tournaments, amassing a total of 95 tournament victories, which included 62 PGA tour wins and 7 major championships, becoming the first player to win $1 million.
It was Palmers interest in the British Open which ignited the Americans presence in the tournament which had previously been considered a tournament that was not worth the effort, long journey for small purses and foreign links golf courses which were a world away from the American courses.
In his first attempt to win the British Open in 1960 and to match Ben Hogan´s 1953 achievement of winning three majors in a single year were cruelly dashed, eventually losing out to Kel Nagle by a single stroke. But this didn´t deter him and he won the Championship the following two years.
The Ryder Cup was a special tournament to Arnie, appearing in six Ryder Cups from 1961 to 1973. He captained the American team twice in 1975 and earlier as the last playing captain in 1963.
He made his 50th and final appearance at the US Masters in 2004 having won the tournament 4 times. In 2007 he became the honorary starter and was later joined by his long-time friends and on course adversaries Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
Away from golf course, Palmer was an extraordinary man, a Freemason since 1958 he amassed more than 20,000 airmiles as a self-taught pilot. Something that may seem strange considering he was originally afraid of flying and it was this fear that led him to learn to fly. He held a pilot’s licence until his final flight in 2011 where he piloted his own plane to Orlando. “Next to marrying wife, Winnie, and deciding on a professional career in golf, there´s only one decision Arnold Palmer considers smarter. Learning how to fly an airplane”, an extract from his website that shows the importance of flying during his life.
He was a business man, building up a world-famous golf brand and design company, with over 300 course designs to his credit including the first golf course in The People´s Republic of China. He owns the Bay Hill Club and Lodge, home to the Arnold Palmer International Golf Tournament and bought the Latrobe Country Club where his Dad worked.
A charitable man, he set up Armies’ Army charitable fund and the hospital at which Tiger Woods children were born bears the name of his first wife.
Arnold Palmer amassed many accolades and awards throughout his career including being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and becoming the first golfer to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was inducted into Golf´s Hall of Fame in 1974.
Arnold Palmer died on the 25th September this year and after his funeral his ashes were laid to rest at Latrobe Country Club, a place that remained in his heart his entire life.
He is a legendary figure that the world of golf will sorely miss, a true gentleman of the game and a role model to so many professionals who have followed in his footsteps.