Tuesday, March 13

Arnold Palmer: Golf Hero and Ambassador

(Photo: Delores Knowles/Flickr)

Who is Arnold Palmer? And why does he have his own PGA Tour event, the Arnold Palmer Invitational?

Of course, these are ridiculous questions for anyone who can spell "golf."

Yet for the younger generation Arnold Palmer is probably best known as an aging golf ambassador. He's a pre-Tiger, pre-Jack champion of bygone years when professional golfers swung actual woods, flexed steel shafts and wore metal spikes.

Golf fans loved Arnie. He single handedly built a volunteer army. And his followers are just as loyal today.

Let's retrace Palmer's career and impact on the game.

62 Tour Wins, 7 Professional Majors

Arnold Palmer won the U.S. Amateur in 1954 and turned pro soon thereafter. Palmer's first of 62 PGA Tour wins was at the Canadian Open in 1955. His last Tour victory came 18 years later at the 1973 Bob Hope Desert Classic. Arnold's most productive years were 1960-63 when he won 29 events.

Palmer won 7 professional majors, including 4 Masters, 1 U.S. Open and 2 British Opens -- all between 1958 and 1964. Finishing second 3 times, he never won the PGA. Arnold also had 4 second-place finishes in the U.S. Open.

Palmer also played on 6 Ryder Cup teams. He was the last playing captain in 1963 and served as captain a second time in 1975.

Arnold's Impact

Palmer is credited with ushering professional golf into the modern era. Arnold's charisma and swashbuckling style of play made great television, and more money and prestige for professional golf followed.

Another factor in the rise of Palmer (and professional golf) was the advent of the sports agent. Arnold was the first client of Mark McCormack, the founder and chairman of mega sports agency IMG.

Senior Years

Arnold also claimed 10 titles on the Senior PGA (Champions) Tour. He won the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award, was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame and was a founder of The Golf Channel.

Today, among his many golf interests, Arnold Palmer is national chairman of the USGA Members Program. And still the people-appointed worldwide ambassador of golf.

The Armchair Golfer

(Supplemental source: Wikipedia)

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