Every year we lose some of the greatest personalities in the world. One of them was Arnold Daniel Palmer on Sunday. The Western Pennsylvania native was regarded as one of the greatest professional golfers of all time. He was one of the greatest sportsmen in American history.
Palmer helped revolutionize the sport of golf during the time that television was gaining its popularity. Some say that golf is boring to watch. It’s too quiet: Too dull. But when Palmer arrived on the scene and took over the sport, golf became much more interesting to watch.
There are not too many athletic humanitarians from his generation left in this world. Great composure, positive personality, Palmer would take time off to meet and greet with fans. Nicknamed “The King,” he represented the game of golf and gave it credibility.
Palmer was more than a competitor; he was everybody’s friend. He would congratulate the winners in every single tournament, men, women, pros and amateurs. Palmer was one of the few who showed tremendous sportsmanship.
With a career that spanned six decades, Palmer had a total of 95 professional wins. He ranks fifth all time with 62 wins on the PGA Tour. He won the Masters tournament four times in six years and is tied with Tiger Woods for second all time in Masters wins. He also captured the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship.
Named PGA Player of the Year twice and Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year in 1960, Palmer was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in its charter year of 1974 along with Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan. Palmer went on to receive more honors, including the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
Palmer was frequently seen both on the golf course and in commercials. Even those who are not golf fans know who Palmer was.
The King is synonymous with the sporting life. In the 1950s and 1960s he added flair to the game for all golfers to follow. Richland’s athletic coaches grew up watching Arnold Palmer. “The sports world lost a pioneer of the game. His reputation is impeccable and revolutionized the game into what it is today,” said Jon Havens, men’s basketball coach. “He was the name of golf when I was growing up. An icon for the ages.” said Intramural coach John Stanson.
Arnold Palmer’s popularity level ranks with Julius Erving, Roger Staubach, David Robinson and Roberto Clemente. In contemporary golf, he ranks with Jordan Speith, Rory McElroy and, of course, Tiger Woods. In golf history, Palmer wrote the book. He was a great athlete and a much greater human being.