by Denise I Smithson
Born in Latrobe, PA, Arnold D. Palmer is widely thought to be one of the best golfers ever to play the game. Palmer has been the winner of a number of PGA Tours as well as the Champions Tour since his first big tournament win in 1955. Palmer is simply known as "The King" among many fans and players alike and has achieved worldwide fame. He is acknowledged, along with Gary Player and Jack Nickaus as one of the Big Three in the game. With the advent of televised golf matches in the 1950's, Palmer's playing which led to a growing interest in the sport.
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.
Palmer won the 1958 Masters, his first major tournament win and quickly became one of the most popular golfers in the world. He signed with the agent Mark McCormack, who says that he was interested in representing Palmer because of "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." Palmer quickly achieved international fame, winning the English Open (one of the first American golfers to do so). He scored a string of victories including the US Open in 1960, another English Open in 1961 and the PGA Masters in 1960, 1963 and 1964. Between 1960 and 1962, Palmer took 29 PGA Tour event trophies.
Arnold Palmer was the 1960 Sports Illustrated pro athlete of the year; 1960 also saw him winning the coveted Sportsman of the Year award. He continued to win a dedicated fan base (so dedicated, in fact that they came to be known as "Arnie's Army"). In 1967, Palmer became the first professional golfer to earn more than one million over the course of his career. It is a testament to Palmer's ability that he continued to win at least one PGA tour event every year until 1970, even against competition from Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus - and in 1971, he won four PGA tour events.
Arnold won the Vardon Trophy for low score average four different times and played on six Ryder Cup teams. By 1980, the acclaimed golfer was eligible for the Senior PGA Tour and with his name alone, helped make the tour successful. The tourney would eventually be renamed as the Champions Tour. On the Senior Tour he won ten events on the tour and with the help of his agent McCormack, Palmer became tops in pay for endorsements, sponsorships, and charity events. He has also won the revered Presidential Medal of Freedom Award presented to him by George W. Bush.
In 2004, Arnold played in The Masters for the last time-his 50th consecutive appearance and when he missed the cut at the 2005 US Senior Open, he then announced he would not play any further senior majors, retiring from golf in 2006. To the delight of Arnie's Army, one of his most memorable events was during the 2004 Bay Hill Invitational where standing over 200 yards from the 18th green, he lashed his second shot onto the green with a driver. Even Arnold smiled and celebrated the moment along with his grandson/caddie, Sam Saunders.
Arnold Palmer no longer plays competitively, but stays active in the world of golf. He is involved in the Bay Hill Club and Lodge, which hosts the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He was one of the developers of the Golf Channel and helped to build one of the first golf courses in China and founded the Arnold Palmer Design Company. Ranked the sixth best player of all time by Golf Digest, Palmer has also won the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award and is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Arnold Palmer now resides in Orlando, FL where he stays on top of developments in the golf world and still enjoys a good game of golf.
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