On Sunday, September 25, the golfing world said goodbye to Arnold Palmer. Actually, the entire world said goodbye to Arnold Palmer— even if golf never piqued your interest, there is still a good chance that you’ve had his eponymous lemonade-iced tea combination beverage. But even that iconic drink is a testament to Palmer’s impact on the sport beyond the sport itself.
Palmer helped to popularize golf, which for decades was the choice sport of a moneyed élite. During his peak in the late 1950’s to mid 1960’s, the King won several major titles: four masters, two British Opens, and one US Open to be exact. His win total on the PGA Tour— 62 in all— currently ranks fifth all time.
A fascinating profile from the New York Times, published on the evening of his death, traces Palmer’s rise from amateur to unofficial face of the sport. It also highlights his storied rivalry with champion Jack Nicklaus; their duels provided a textbook sports drama.
Arnold Palmer is one of those rare athletes who can broaden the impact and popularity of their sport beyond the insulated world of the game itself. His contributions to golf are akin to that of Michael Jordan for the game of basketball or Jimmy Connors for tennis. It’s not too often we see a larger than life personality like Palmer’s, one that is recognizable beyond the diehard fans.
Here’s to the King!