As a young golfer, I looked up to a many faces I saw on TV, from Phil Mickelson to Rory McIlroy. No one stood out like Arnold Palmer.
Palmer was the one of the first names in golf I ever heard. From his game to his clothing brand, Palmer’s name is everywhere in the world of golf.
Before Palmer came to the scene, the golf was seen as a game for the elite. The country club membership requirement ostracized most that didn’t fit the bill.
Palmer came from a middle-class family and got his clubs from his father, who worked at their local country club.
“Arnold Palmer democratized golf, made us think that we, too, could go out and play,” said House Speaker John Boehner in a USA Today press release.
After working every job available at his local country club, Palmer went on to play golf at Wake Forest College. He toured professionally in 1954.
I think Palmer transformed golf into a working man’s sport. Suddenly it was possible for a middle-class individual to enjoy the relaxing sport, without a country club membership. He brought golf to the main stage of sports.
Throughout his career, Palmer earned 95 professional wins, including 62 PGA Tour wins — the fifth most of all time.
Palmer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009 — the highest civilian awards given in the United States.
Palmer was known for his kindness and willingness to teach. On multiple occasions he was seen giving lessons to presidents — starting with President Dwight Eisenhower and ending with President Barack Obama. Palmer has been putting in the White House since the 60s.
After lessons, he could often be found giving hundreds of autographs to fans waiting outside of the White House.
Arnold Palmer, 87, died Sunday in Pittsburg from heart complications.“The game has given so much to Arnold Palmer,” Jack Nicklaus said in a press release, “but he has given back so much more.”
Mihaela Karst can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @mihaela_jo