ARNOLD PALMER | BLOG
Golf has lost one of the most influential figures in its history. The King, Arnold Palmer, has died.
Palmer, who passed away yesterday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had been undergoing heart tests and was due to have an operation today. He was 87 years old.
At the Masters in April this year, which I attended for the first time, I saw first hand the impact the great man had on the game but remember being somewhat sad to witness it in such bittersweet circumstances. I had never been to Augusta National before, and had never seen Palmer in the arena he ‘owned’ for years.
This year, and sadly for the first time, he was too frail to swing a club at the ceremonial opening tee shot. Later, Nicklaus admitted he’d tried to talk his friend into taking part, but Palmer didn’t budge.
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“I don’t care if you putt it off the tee,” Nicklaus said to him. “I think everybody would love to have you do anything.”
“Let me think about it,” said Palmer.
On the Thursday morning, Nicklaus said Arnold Palmer was content to just sit and watch.
“I’m good,” Palmer told him.
I stood a few feet from where Augusta National chairman Billy Payne introduced an unsteady and frail Palmer to the crowd. He saluted them, with an Arnie thumbs up. The lady next to me had tears in her eyes. “Well that was somethin’” she said. “I’m glad I got to see that.”
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This writer never got the chance to speak to The King. My colleague, Michael McEwan, had that very privilege, and said Arnold Palmer was true gentleman, a class act. Reading the thoughts, tributes and memories from around the world today, that’s the general feeling for the man. He was a giant of the game.
Colin Montgomerie tweeted that other players were “respected” but that Palmer was “loved”. How very true.
Arnold Palmer won 62 times on the PGA Tour, picked up seven major championships, and was widely figured to have put golf on the global map. His partnership with Mark McCormack in 1960 led to the formation of IMG, the world’s biggest sports management firm. He was IMG’s first client, and that handshake changed sport forever.
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But it wasn’t about the money for Palmer. He was one of the few Americans who chose to come over to play in the Open Championship. Most didn’t care for the travel, nor the weather, or even the competition itself.
But Palmer knew its history, its connection with the game, and it was his affection and respect for the Claret Jug that forced a new generation of American golfers to start acting like professional golfers should.
"Everyone who has ever made money from this game today, we owe it all to Arnold" - Butch Harmon
Butch Harmon summed that up with an interview on Sky Sports earlier this morning. “Everyone who has ever made money from this game today, we owe it all to Arnold,” said Harmon.
Arnold Palmer was so loved by Arnie’s Army that his supporters gave a young Jack Nicklaus a hard time when he first stepped out on tour. They realised Nicklaus was a talent, and it meant Palmer might not have it all his own way. But there were times when Nicklaus knew his place, despite his 18 major wins, and his moving tweet describing the loss of Palmer exemplified just that.
“Arnold transcended the game of golf,” tweeted Nicklaus. “He was more than a golfer or even great golfer. He was an icon. He was a legend.”
Arnold Palmer :: Your tributes
Pay your own tribute to The King, Arnold Palmer, by leaving a comment in the section below.