I woke up to the sad news this morning that ‘The King’, Arnold Palmer, had passed away and, like the vast majority of the golfing world, was shocked and very saddened that this great sporting icon is no longer with us.
The tributes from world leaders, sportsmen and women, media and social media have been full of emotion as we say goodbye to the most important player that has ever graced the fairways of this great game.
As a young man Arnold Palmer was such an influential individual. Many PGA Tour Players have a lot to thank him for as he changed the face of professional golf around the world.
As a 12 year old my first golf clubs were a set of Arnold Palmer ‘Powerpoint’ irons by Dunlop - I even bought the Arnold Palmer putter and adopted the knock-kneed style that Arnie had used with so much success.
I bought and read Arnold’s ‘Hit-it-Hard’ instruction book cover to cover and tried to emulate that waggle before he started his swing, and even that famous club twirl as he finished his swing! I watched Arnold, Jack and Gary compete against one another in ‘The Big Three’ on black and white TV and was spellbound by Arnold’s skill and charisma.
Nearly 40 years later I got to meet Arnold Palmer and shake his hand on the lawns of Augusta National during the Masters week when I was Captain of the PGA – it was a moment I will never forget and to say I was mesmerised and speechless would be an understatement.
Arnold Palmer was a prolific golf course architect designing several hundred golf courses around the world. From his first design in 1963, the back nine at his beloved boyhood course in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, to his recently completed project in Brazil, ‘The King’ was instrumental in shaping the way people around the world enjoy the game. For his respected design career spanning many decades, Palmer was presented with the Donald Ross Award for lifetime achievement by our American colleagues the American Society of Golf Course Architects.
Arnold Palmer never lost his common touch. He was a man of the people, willing to sign every autograph, shake every hand, and look every person in the gallery in the eye. There are very few ‘legends’ that grace our lives and inspire us – Arnold Palmer was one of those people.