American golf legend Arnold Palmer passed away yesterday at a Pittsburgh hospital aged 87.
The seven-time Major winner revolutionized golf with his swashbuckling play and charismatic personality, taking the game to new heights of popularity with the advent of TV coverage. Nicknamed ‘The King’, Palmer was famous for his huge following during events, dubbed ‘Arnie’s Army’.
Palmer won more than 90 tournaments between 1955 and 1988 and, with compatriot Jack Nicklaus and South African Gary Player, formed part of golf’s celebrated ‘Big Three’ who dominated golf in the 1960s.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem paid a moving tribute to Palmer:
“We have lost a great friend and giant in our sport tonight with the passing of Arnold Palmer. There is no way to adequately express the immense sense of loss that we all feel with this news. He obviously meant so much not only to the PGA Tour, but to the entirety of golf by lifting it to newfound visibility and popularity.
“It is not an exaggeration to say there would be no modern day PGA Tour without Arnold Palmer. There would be no PGA Tour Champions without Arnold Palmer. There would be no Golf Channel without Arnold Palmer. No one has had a greater impact on those who play our great sport or who are touched by it.
“It has been said many times over in so many ways, but beyond his immense talent, Arnold transcended our sport with an extraordinarily appealing personality and genuineness that connected with millions, truly making him a champion of the people. The fact that his popularity never waned more than a quarter century after his last competitive victory speaks volumes to the man, the icon and the legendary figure he was.
“More than his words, Arnold’s actions spoke to his unequivocal love of golf and belief that no individual can be or should be bigger than the game. Arnold totally gave of himself to support golf and its growth. He has served as a role model for generations of PGA Tour members in ways large and small. The game, and all of us involved with it, are so much richer for having had the fortune to have Arnold willingly serve as its global champion and ambassador.
“Beyond being an invaluable friend of the tour who generously gave of his time, opinion and support, Arnold was a wonderful personal friend and was someone who was always there for me with advice, support and guidance. We will all miss him so.”