‘The King’ of golf Arnold Palmer passes away aged 87

‘The King’ of golf Arnold Palmer passes away aged 87
Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

Seven-time Major winner and golfing legend Arnold Palmer has passed away aged 87.

Palmer died at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, US.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1929, Palmer took his first tour win at the 1955 Canadian Open, having won the US Amateur Championship in 1954.

Considered by many to be one of golf’s first truly global stars, Palmer won his first Major in 1958 with victory at the Masters in Augusta, finishing one stroke ahead of Doug Ford and Fred Hawkins.

Palmer returned to Augusta in 1960 to win his second Masters, and won his first US Open in dramatic fashion later that year, coming from seven shots down during the final round of the tournament to claim his third major.

Affectionately known as ‘The King’, Palmer claimed four more major titles over the next four years – the 1961 and 1962 Open, and the 1962 and 1964 Masters Tournament.

He represented the US Ryder Cup team on six occasions, captaining twice. He was inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.

Later in his playing career he became one of the marquee names on the Senior PGA Tour, before retiring from tournament play in 2006.

Palmer entered the golf course design industry in 1972 with the establishment of the Arnold Palmer Design Company.

The firm has created around 300 courses since forming, with a distinctly global presence. Arnold Palmer Design has designed courses in Europe, the far east and India, as well as numerous high profile layouts in the US and Canada.

Tributes have poured in from across the golf world following Palmer’s passing.

“Arnold transcended the game of golf,” said Jack Nicklaus. “He was more than a golfer or even a 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.”

“Arnold Palmer will always be a champion, in every sense of the word,” said Mike Davis, executive director/CEO of the USGA. “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.”

“Arnold Palmer was golf,” said Greg Martin, president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. “He created the modern era through his play, his passion, personality, business acumen and golf course architecture. Arnold Palmer was admired because he was the everyman, doing exactly what we would all love to be doing. King indeed.”

Thad Layton, senior golf course architect at the Arnold Palmer Design Company, commented: “Hard to believe Arnold Palmer is gone, he seemed invincible. Never have I met such a fighter and a man of true integrity; he was the genuine article. It was an honour to have worked alongside him over the past 20 years at Arnold Palmer Design Company, sharing his enthusiasm for the game he loved through his work. His legacy will live on through the countless lives he touched along the way and the beautiful courses that bear his name.”

Former Arnold Palmer Design Company employees also paid tribute.

“I was privileged to work for the King of our beloved sport,” said Erik Larsen, ASGCA Past President and former associate at Arnold Palmer Design. “He walked in a way that not many people did. We can learn from that in how we carry ourselves every day. He was a gentlemen. In fact, it isn’t fair to just talk about his contributions to golf and philanthropic endeavours. He was an American hero. I would have been proud to work with him for one day, let alone 28 years.”

Former associate Vicki Martz said: “I have been thinking a lot about what a sincere and genuine, true ‘gentle man’ he was. When he focused on you, you were the most important person in the world. That was how he was with everyone. Personally, I value the opportunity he gave me. He was gender blind, which was unusual in the mid-80s. He told me I could be whatever I had the talent for and wanted to be. He valued my participation within the company. It was groundbreaking. I had the wonderful opportunity to learn not only golf design at his elbow, but also off the course and how he expected you to conduct yourself in business. He was a mentor and he was my friend.”

Read GCA’s interview with Arnold Palmer, conducted in 2011, here.

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