Arnold Palmer - The Man From Latrobe
Arnold Palmer - The Man From Latrobe
by Denise I Smithson
One of the greatest players ever to step up to the green, Arnold Palmer was born in Latrobe, PA - a city which is justifiably proud of its most famous native son. Ever since his first major tournament win all the way back in 1955, Palmer has been one of the biggest names in golf - many fans refer to him as "The King". Along with Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, Palmer is one of the Big Three names in the golf world. Palmer's playing was in large part responsible for the increased interest in golf as a spectator sport once games began to be televised in the 1950s.
Arnold began early, having learned his love for the game from his father, Deacon; a greens keeper at the Latrobe Country Club. At the tender age of seven, Palmer scored a 70 at the nearby Bent Creek Country Club, an impressive achievement, especially considering his age. Palmer cut his teeth in the game on the then only nine hole Latrobe Country Club course, on which he was allowed to play early in the morning and late in the afternoon when members did not have tee times scheduled.
He attended the popular Wake Forest University appropriately on a golf scholarship and served for three years in the Coast Guard. During this time, while continuing to develop his golf skills, he married Winifred Walker who he met while playing in a Pennsylvania golf tourney. During his rookie season, he won the Canadian Open and surged ahead with personality and business ideas that made golf a sport people became interested in and wanted to watch-many people give Palmer the credit for the sport becoming so popular.
His first major championship win came in the 1958 Masters - within two years he was one of the biggest names in the game. One thing which helped was his signing on with the agent Mark McCormack. Asked later on what it was he saw in the young Palmer, he answered: "his good looks, his modest background, the way he played golf, his risk taking and wearing his heart on his sleeve, and his involvement in so many exciting early televised finishes." One of the first US golfers to win the English Open, Palmer quickly became an international golf superstar and won the Masters in the years 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964. He also won the US Open in 1960 and the English Open again in 1961 and 1962. However, his best years were 1960 through 1963. In this time period, Palmer won 29 PGA Tour Events in only four seasons of play.
Palmer was also named Professional Athlete of the Year in 1960 by Sports Illustrated. The same year, he won the Sportsman of the Year award. These awards won him a growing fan base which became known as "Arnie's Army". Palmer continued to win one or more PGA Tour events every year until 1971 (when he won four), even against Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player - an impressive achievement.
The winner of four Vardon Trophies for low average score and a member on six different Ryder Cup teams, Palmer was by 1980 eligible for the PGA Senior Tour - an event which his famous name brought success to. The event would eventually be renamed the Champions Tour; Palmer won ten events on this tour and thanks to the talent of his agent McCormack, Palmer earned more in endorsements, charity events and sponsorships than any other player in the sport. Arnold Palmer has even won the highest honor given to civilians in the US - the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award, which was presented to Palmer by President Bush.
Palmer made his 50th and last appearance in the Masters in 2004. After failing to make the cut for the 2005 Senior Open, Palmer announced that he would no longer compete in the Senior Majors. However, in 2004 he made one of his greatest shots, getting onto the 18th green in his second shot from more than 200 yards. Even Palmer himself was impressed.
Arnold Palmer remains active in the golf world, being involved in the Bay Hill Club and Lodge (which is where the Arnolf Palmer Invitational is held), being one of the driving forces behind the Golf Channel and assisting in the building of one of China's first golf courses. Palmer also started the Arnold Palmer Design Company and since 1971, he has been owner of the Latrobe Country Club where he got his first taste of the game. Golf Digest ranked Palmer as one of the top ten players of all time and is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and a winner of the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award (which he won in 1988). Palmer lives in Orlando, Florida where he still enjoys getting in a round of golf - and being an ambassador for the game of golf to the world.
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