Arnold Palmer wrote in his 1997 autobiography, A Golfer's Life, that his father gave him a big piece of advice that served him well through the years. He said, "Get the right grip. Hit the ball hard. Go find the ball, boy, and hit it hard again."
Palmer found the right grip, hit the ball hard, and—more often than not—often found the ball in the bottom of the cup. The little boy that "Deacon" Palmer gave the advice to went on to become one of the greatest golfers of the twentieth century. But not only was Palmer a great golfer, he was and is the game's great ambassador. Many believe that Arnold Palmer single-handedly helped resurrect the game from the stodgy upper classes, making it a spectator sport for the common man, and making it a game that all sorts and kinds could play and enjoy.
Arnold Palmer was born in Youngstown, Pennsylvania on September 10, 1929, to Milfred "Deacon" Palmer and Dorris Palmer. Soon after he was born, the family moved to Latrobe, Pennsylvania (where Palmer still has a home and chooses to reside most of the year). He was born into a golfing household, with his father as the greens keeper and teaching professional at the Latrobe Country Club. Palmer learned much of what he knows about the game from his father, who made a set of clubs for Arnold when the boy was three years old.
With immense natural talent and his father's tutelage, Palmer soon developed his own distinctive game, creating a style that would last him a lifetime. Though it wasn't pretty, the trademark Palmer swing and quick method of play later became part of the appeal that brought him millions of fans. His swing, an awkward and fundamentally flawed hack at the ball, forced Palmer as a boy to swing so hard he "often toppled over."
Comes of Age on the Links
As a kid he was only allowed on the Latrobe course (which he later ended up purchasing) before the members arrived in the morning or after they'd gone home in the evenings. On the links, he started playing the older boys, and when he was eight he consistently defeated the 12 year olds; soon he played regularly with the older boys—the caddies on the golf course—and waited until the day he would be allowed to caddie himself.
While he was in high school Palmer began winning tournaments with ease. In four years on the Latrobe High School golf team, he lost only once. He also added to his list of accomplishments three Western Pennsylvania Amateur titles. A friend of Palmer's, Bud Worsham (whose brother Lew was a professional golfer) convinced Arnold to accept a golf scholarship to Wake Forest College in North Carolina, where he went in 1947. Palmer was soon dominating college tournaments just as he had dominated tournaments in high school.
To Paint or Play
Palmer ended up leaving Wake Forest a year early to join the Coast Guard. He fully intended to return to school to earn his degree. He did return to Wake Forest, but he never completed the degree. (Wake Forest would later award him an honorary doctorate in the humanities.)
|1929||Born September 10 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania|
|1933||Father gives Arnold his first set of golf clubs when he's three|
|1938||Playing regularly with the older caddies on Latrobe's nine hole golf course|
|1941||Becomes a caddy at age 11 on Latrobe's course|
|1947||Enters Wake Forest University|
|1950||Leaves Wake Forest and for his military/wartime service joins U.S. Coast Guard|
|1953||Upon leaving Coast Guard, returns to Wake Forest but doesn't complete his degree (he will be awarded an honorary degree years later)|
|1954||Wins United States Amateur Championship|
|1954||Marries Winnifred Walzer on December 20 (they would have two daughters, Peggy and Amy)|
|1954||Turns professional after signing with Wilson Sporting Goods|
|1955||Wins his first important professional tournament, the Canadian Open|
|1958||Wins his first Masters|
|1960||Wins Masters for a second time; wins first and only U.S. Open|
|1960||Founds Arnold Palmer Enterprises|
|1961||Wins his first British Open|
|1962||Wins third Masters Tournament; wins second British Open|
|1964||Wins fourth Masters|
|1968||Becomes first player in PGA Tour History to reach $1 million in official earnings, on July 21, with a tie for 2nd at the PGA Championship|
|1970||Awarded honorary LL.D. from Wake Forest University|
|1971||Becomes president and owner of Latrobe Country Club|
|1974||Becomes president of Arnold Palmer Cadillac in Charlotte, North Carolina|
|1980||Enters Senior Tour and wins the PGA Seniors Championship|
|1981||Wins the USGA Senior Open (first player to claim both U.S. and Senior U.S. Open titles)|
|1984||Wins his second PGA Seniors Championship|
|1992||Establishes major annual fundraiser for Latrobe Area Hospital|
|1994||Plays in final U.S. Open|
|1996||Captains the U.S. team to victory in the President's Cup|
|1997||Undergoes surgery for prostate cancer|
|1999||Co-authors his autobiography, A Golfer's Life with James Dodson|
|1999||Wife Winnie dies of cancer on November 20|
|2000||Plays in 1000th tour event|
|2002||Matches his age (73) in the final round of the Napa Valley Championship|
|2002||Makes record 48th consecutive start at the Masters (his final Masters Tournament)|
He was unsure of what to do, and when Palmer left school, he was tempted to turn pro right away. But that was not an easy decision to make. Though being a professional golfer enticed the young Palmer, professional golf promised no financial stability in the 1950s. In fact, Palmer's popularity after his entrance into the world of professional golf, in 1954, brought about the higher winnings and larger purses players are familiar with today. Many professionals still call Palmer "The King" because they realize that were it not for Palmer's decision to turn pro the game would never have taken off.
After turning pro in November of 1954 and signing a contract with Wilson Sporting Goods, Palmer married his Winnie Walzer, with whom he would have two daughters. Palmer and Winnie were a great team, and they stayed together until she passed away from cancer in 1997.
In 1955 he won his first big tournament, the Canadian Open, earning $2,400 as the top prize. He continued to add victories over the next few years, winning three in 1956 and then adding four more victories in 1957. But he would have to wait for the major he wanted until the 1958 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. A victory in this tournament secures your name in golf's book of legends, but Palmer was just getting started.
1960 would be a banner year for Palmer, a season in which "Arnie's Army" materialized and his fan base became legion. At the beginning of the season, in the first major, Palmer took a stunning victory away from Ken Venturi in the Masters after birdieing the final two holes. People all over the country tuned in, and thousands more were on the course to watch the spectacle. During the late fifties, golf coverage on television became more and more commonplace, and most weekends Americans found this tall, average-looking guy named Arnold Palmer on their screen. He was, as Sports Illustrated put it, "earthy and sexy and tan" all at once. The average American found in Palmer a player whose "emotion leaked out of him from every pore." They identified with him. Golf has always carried the stigma for being "a rich man's game," but when working-class people saw Palmer out on the course, a cigarette in his mouth, an awkward (and far from textbook) swing, and his shots ending up in the rough more often than not, they figured that if he could do it, so could they.
Fans began calling themselves "Arnie's Army," a nickname that came about when Palmer played in a tournament near Fort Gordon. According to the News-Press of Fort Myers, soldiers from the base who were working the scoreboards held up signs declaring their allegiance to Arnie. His "soldiers were so devoted," the article said, "that it was not unusual for one to let himself be hit by a Palmer missile to keep it from bounding over the green and into trouble." The signs fans held up would later be banned, but the idea of a following that considered itself an army never died. In fact, it only grew, and soon the "Army" began to irritate Palmer's competitors.
Palmer won the 1960 U.S. Open with a final round of 65—another come-from-behind victory—and people began to believe that there was no deficit from which Arnie couldn't return. His power to capture the hearts of Americans over seemed unstoppable. As did his golf game. He won the British Open in 1961 and 1962, and repeated at The Masters again in 1962. Palmer continued to win some of the regular tournaments on tour, but in 1964 he claimed his last major victory with a win in The Masters.
What Defines Great?
Many say that Palmer was more of a celebrity than he was a great golfer. While indeed he had fantastic performances on the course and won many majors, as well as taking home PGA Player of the Year awards, he won all his honors in less than seven seasons (from 1957 to 1964). Did his competitive drive fizzle, or was he bored and wanting to become more involved with his businesses? He had founded Arnold Palmer Enterprises in 1960 and had started opening golf courses around the country. In addition to that, he also opened up a car dealership and was fascinated by flying and spent much time in the air.
Many also wonder if he was unable to compete with a new superstar by the name of Jack Nicklaus . Palmer's critics often cite the span of Nicklaus's career when discussing the two. Yet in spite of the criticism, over the years people devotedly followed the swift Palmer as he, in turn, followed his ball onto the green. Like a well-tuned military machine, Arnie's Army continues to pull in recruits, and he often draws large crowds at the Seniors Tour events. Some even speculate that he has as many fans today, in his seventh decade, as he did when he was thirty. "I'd just like to think that the people got to know me," he told the Ft. Myers News-Press.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1957||Golf Digest 's Byron Nelson Award for Tournament Victories|
|1960||Awarded the Hickok Belt|
|1960||Earns PGA Player of the Year honors|
|1960-63||Golf Digest 's Byron Nelson Award for Tournament Victories|
|1961-62||Awarded the PGA's Vardon Trophy|
|1962||Earns PGA Player of the Year honors|
|1964||Awarded the PGA's Vardon Trophy|
|1967||Awarded the PGA's Vardon Trophy|
|1969||Golf Writers Association of America awards Palmer the Richardson Award|
|1970||Associated Press Athlete of the Decade (for the 1960s)|
|1972||United States Golf Association Bobby Jones Award|
|1974||Charter Member of World Golf Hall of Fame|
|1975||Golf Digest Man of Silver Era|
|1976||GWAA Charlie Bartlett Award|
|1978||Awarded the Herb Graffis Award|
|1980||Inducted into the PGA Hall of Fame|
|1983||Old Tom Morris Award|
|1989||American Senior Golf Association National Award|
|1991||Ambassador of Golf Award, World Series of Golf|
|1992||National Sports Award, Washington D.C.|
|1996||Named Golfer of the Century|
A Hero's Last Masters
This contemporary following, almost twenty-five years after he left the PGA tour, could be seen at the 2002 Masters tournament, which Palmer had declared to be his last a few weeks before playing in the tournament. He made the cut, thanks in large part to a heavy rain that day, that kept him in the tournament for the weekend, and by that Sunday afternoon, people were lined up twenty deep in some places to get a view of The King as he made his final walk up the 18th fairway at Augusta in tournament play.
According to Sports Illustrated, Palmer brought golf "to the truck drivers and the mailmen and the women trying to make three no-trump in their neighborhood bridge groups." What Palmer's presence on the golf course, and in the millions of living rooms each weekend, did was to make golf a little less "prissy" and took some of the high society country club attitude out of the game.
Great players have always been a part of the game, from Bobby Jones to Walter Hagen and from Sam Snead to Ben Hogan , but according to Sports Illustrated, players such as Hogan, true standouts in the game, were "about as lovable as a border guard, an automaton who walked down the middle of the fairway without looking left or right." Palmer engaged the audience. Audiences felt they knew him, that they, in fact, might be Palmer if only circumstances had been a little different. When he was on the course, Palmer didn't make it feel like a rich man's game. Instead, he "walked fast, let his hair get mussed and bummed cigarettes from the gallery."
Address: Home and office—Box 52, Youngstown, PA 15696. Agent—International Literary Management, Inc., 767 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10022.
SELECTED WRITINGS BY PALMER:
Arnold Palmer's Golf Book: Hit it Hard. Ronald Press, 1961.
Portrait of a Professional Golfer. Golf Digest, 1964.
My Game and Yours. Simon and Schuster, 1965.
Situation Golf. McCall Publshing Co., 1970.
(With William Barry Furlong) Go For Broke. Simon and Schuster, 1973.
(With Bob Drum) Arnold Palmer's Best 54 Golf Holes. Doubleday, 1977.
Arnold Palmer's Complete Book of Putting. Atheneum, 1986.
Play Great Golf: Mastering the Fundamentals of Your Game. Doubleday, 1987.
Arnold Palmer: A Golfer's Life. Random House, 1999.
Where Is He Now?
Arnold Palmer continues to oversee his many business interests (too many to name!) and has a full schedule, making appearances, giving speeches, as well as playing in the occasional Seniors tournament. After he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997, he slowed down a bit, but since he's been given a clean bill of health and hasn't slowed too much.
Palmer loves to fly, and were it not for golf he believes he would have become a full-time pilot. He has also been involved in one of the media revolutions in golf—helping to bring Joe Gibb's dream of The Golf Channel to reality. In much the same way that his appearance on television in the fifties turned an entire nation of non-golfers into devoted fans, Palmer's involvement in The Golf Channel brought the game of golf—and countless programs on how to play better golf—into the home of millions of Americans 24 hours a day (there are well over 30 million viewers of the program nationwide), turning yet another generation into fans of the game.
Playing by the Rules: All the Rules of the Game, Complete with Memorable Rulings from Golf's Rich History. Pocket Books, 2002.
McCormack, M.H. Arnie. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967.
Palmer, Arnold. Arnold Palmer's Golf Book: Hit it Hard. Ronald Press, 1961.
Palmer, Arnold. Portrait of a Professional Golfer. Golf Digest, 1964.
Palmer, Arnold. My Game and Yours. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1965.
Palmer, Arnold. Situation Golf. McCall Publshing Co., 1970.
Palmer, Arnold and William Barry Furlong. Go For Broke. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973.
Palmer, Arnold and Bob Drum. Arnold Palmer's Best 54 Golf Holes. Doubleday, 1977.
Palmer, Arnold. Arnold Palmer's Complete Book of Putting. New York: Atheneum, 1986.
Palmer, Arnold. Play Great Golf: Mastering the Fundamentals of Your Game. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1987.
Palmer, Arnold. Arnold Palmer: A Golfer's Life. New York: Random House, 1999.
Palmer, Arnold. Playing by the Rules: All the Rules of the Game, Complete with Memorable Rulings from Golf's Rich History. New York: Pocket Books, 2002.
"Arnold Palmer." (personal profiles). Sports Illustrated (September 19, 1994): 60.
Deacon, J. "Return of the King: Arnold Palmer May Be Golf Royalty, But He is also a Man of the People." Maclean's (May 6, 1996).
Dienhart, T. "Palmer Won't Coast Into Retirement." Sporting News (June 3, 2002): 60.
"The End of an Era." Golf World (April 19, 2002).
New York Times Book Review (April 11, 1965; May 1, 1977).
Reilly, Rick. "Seven ahead, nine to go, and then…" Sports Illustrated (June 15, 1987).
Soffian, Seth. "A Master's Farewell." News-Press (Fort Myers, FL) (April 14, 2002): 1.
Sports Illustrated (June 27, 1966; April 4, 1966; December 19, 1966; March 6, 1967; October 30, 1967; October 14, 1968; August 3, 1970; June 11, 1973; February 18, 1974; June 20, 1977; June 19, 1978).
"Arnold Palmer" biography. http://www.sandhillsonline.com/plantation/palmer.htm. (January 21, 2003)
"Arnold Palmer." Player biography. http://www.golfweb.com/players/00/19/10/bio.html. (January 21, 2003)
Sketch by Eric Lagergren
Arnold Daniel Palmer
Arnold Daniel Palmer
Arnold Palmer (born 1929) amassed 92 golf championships in professional competition of national or international stature by the end of 1994. Sixty-one of the victories came on the U.S. PGA Tour. He was the first person to make $1 million playing golf.
Golf legend Arnold Palmer displayed unquestionable skill on the course, but even more importantly, he had much charisma. He almost singlehandedly brought golf out of the elite country clubs and into the consciousness of mainstream America. Throughout his career, Palmer attracted legions of fans—known collectively as "Arnie's Army"—who hung on his every shot, celebrating his successes along with him, and suffering his failures. Even in the twilight of his career, with failures on the links far outnumbering successes, Arnie's Army remained as loyal as ever.
Arnold Palmer was born in Youngstown, Pennsylvania, and grew up in nearby Latrobe, an industrial town not far from Pittsburgh. His family had lived in the area since the early 1800s. Palmer's father, Milfred "Deacon" Palmer, worked at the Latrobe Country Club for more than 40 years, working his way up from grounds keeper to teaching pro. "Deac," as he was called, gave Arnold his first set of golf clubs when he was three years old. Arnold learned the fundamentals of the game on Latrobe's nine-hole course, which he would sneak onto at every opportunity. By the time he was eight, he was playing regularly with the older boys who worked as caddies at the course, and he became a caddie himself at the age of 11.
Attended Wake Forest
Palmer starting winning tournaments while he was still in high school. While starring for the Latrobe High School golf team, he lost only one match in four years. He also won three Western Pennsylvania Junior championships and three Western Pennsylvania Amateur titles during his high school days. During his senior year, Palmer met Bud Worsham, whose brother Lew was a professional golfer. At Worsham's urging, Palmer accepted a golf scholarship to Wake Forest College in North Carolina. He enrolled at Wake Forest in 1947, and quickly began winning, or coming close to winning, every amateur and intercollegiate tournament in sight.
During Palmer's senior year in college, his best friend and roommate, Bud Worsham, was killed in a car accident. Shaken by Worsham's death, Palmer left school and joined the Coast Guard, where he served for three years. In 1954 Palmer began selling painting supplies for a Cleveland company to support his participation in amateur golf. His victory in the National Amateur championship that year prompted Palmer to begin contemplating the idea of turning professional, making golf a job rather than an expensive and time-consuming hobby. In November of 1954 he turned pro and signed a sponsorship contract with the Wilson Sporting Goods Company. About a month later, he married Winnie Walzer, whom he had met while playing in an amateur tournament and proposed to three days later.
In 1955 Palmer won his first important professional tournament, the Canadian Open, earning $2, 400, his first big golf paycheck. He captured three tournaments the following year, and in 1957 took four more. He earned nearly $28, 000 that year, making him the number five moneywinner on the tour. Palmer won three tournaments during each of the next two seasons. One of his 1958 victories was the prestigious Masters, a tournament held annually in Augusta, Georgia. 1960 was the pivotal year in Palmer's golf career. Before the 1960 season was over, Arnold Palmer would become a household name, and was well on his way to becoming the most popular golfer ever to play on the professional circuit.
1960 Victories Brought Fame
Two spectacular come-from-behind wins in major tournaments cemented Palmer's reputation as a gambler who was never out of contention. In the 1960 Masters, Palmer birdied the final two holes to steal a certain victory from rival Ken Venturi. At the time, golf was just beginning to receive regular television coverage, and Palmer's good looks, combined with his dramatic performance on the course, instantly made him a national hero. Palmer mounted an even more astonishing comeback in the 1960 U.S. Open in Denver, where he scored a 65 in the final round to win the tournament from seven strokes—and 14 players—out of the lead. His fans began to believe that he was never too far behind to win. Palmer's style was an aggressive one. He hit the ball hard, with an awkward-looking swing that often left him careening off-balance, much to the delight of the weekend hacks in the audience whose own swings it resembled.
Those two stunning 1960 victories, along with seven other wins that year, established Palmer as the golden boy of golf. Tournament victories continued to come in droves over the next few years. Wins in major tournaments included the British Open in 1961 and 1962, and the Masters in 1962 and 1964. His galleries became so big that they became an annoyance to fellow players. His fans would stampede to the next fairway before the other players in his group had finished out the hole. They sometimes went so far as to heckle Palmer's opponents, especially archrival Jack Nicklaus. Each of Palmer's trademark mannerisms utterly mesmerized Arnie's Army—the way he hitched up his sagging pants, pitched his half-smoked cigarettes onto the grass, and grimaced at every missed putt.
Palmer quickly became not only the game's biggest star, but one of the nation's biggest celebrities. Never in the past were ordinary people drawn to a golf champion the way they were to Palmer. He became the most sought after person in the world for product endorsements. As his popularity grew, so did his interests outside of golf. Palmer became an avid pilot, and flew his own private jet to tournaments. He also dabbled in television and movie acting, and produced his own golf show. He became an author as well, churning out a new golf book every few years. As money rolled in from both golf and endorsements, Palmer became the richest athlete in the world, with a financial empire that spanned the golf equipment, clothing, printing, insurance, dry cleaning, and investment industries. His companies had branches in Australia, Japan, and Europe. Including earnings from his various businesses, Palmer's income soared to more than $1 million a year.
Named Athlete of the Decade
Although he continued to win the occasional tournament through the rest of the decade, the 1964 Masters was Palmer's last victory in a major event. Dry periods became more frequent and lasted longer. At times, it seemed as if his involvement in business was distracting him from golf. He sold several of his businesses off to the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in the mid-1960s, but kept an active role in managing them. In 1969 Palmer was forced to withdraw from the PGA championship because of a hip injury, leading many people to believe that his brilliant career was at an end. After taking several months off to recuperate, however, he came back to win the last two events of the season. After another lengthy drought that lasted for most of the 1970 season—during which the Associated Press named him Athlete of the Decade—Palmer won the 1971 Bob Hope Desert Classic and three other tournaments that year.
Palmer won a couple of minor PGA titles during the 1970s, but overall his play was erratic. His Army, on the other hand, remained huge and loyal. In 1980 Palmer entered the Senior PGA tour, and enjoyed a bit of a career revival. He won the first Senior tournament he ever entered, the 1980 PGA Seniors championship. He also captured the 1981 United States Golf Association (USGA) Senior Open, and took the PGA Seniors again in 1984. In 1985 Palmer won the Senior Tournament Players Championship by 11 strokes, the largest margin of victory ever produced in that event. His last victory on the Senior tour was the 1988 Crestar Classic.
Palmer continued to play regularly, though inconsistently, in the 1990s. In 1994 he made his final appearance at the U.S. Open, fittingly located in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, just a few miles from his hometown. As Palmer finished his final round, the thunderous ovation of his Army brought him to tears. A similarly emotional scene accompanied his last appearance at the British Open in 1995. Fellow players, who call Palmer "the King, " realize that the great sums of money they are paid to play the game they love exist largely because of the efforts and charisma of Arnold Palmer. As current golf star Nick Faldo said during Palmer's farewell performance at the British, "If there had been no Arnold Palmer in 1960 … it might have been a little shed on the beach instead of these salubrious surroundings. You cannot say what the man has done for the game. It's everything."
Palmer has received countless honors, earning virtually every national award in golf. After his great 1960 season, he won both the Hickock Athlete of the Year and Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year trophies. He is a charter member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, the American Golf Hall of Fame, and the PGA Hall of Fame. He is chairman of the USGA Member Program and served as Honorary National Chairman of the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation for 20 years. He played a major role in the fund-raising drive that created the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Women in Orlando. A long-time member of the Board of Directors of Latrobe Area Hospital, he established an annual fund-raising golf event for the institution in 1992.
Arnold Palmer underwent surgery for prostate cancer in January of 1997.
McCormack, Mark H., Arnie: The Evolution of a Legend, Simon and Schuster, 1967.
Arnold Palmer's Biography, "http://www.sportsline.com/u/fans/celebrity/palmer/bio.htm," July 22, 1997.
Condon, Robert J., The Fifty Finest Athletes of the 20th Century, McFarland and Company, 1990, pp. 112-114.
Dorman, Larry, "An Army Bids Palmer One Last Cheerio at Open, " in New York Times Biographical Service, July 1995, pp. 1058-1059.
Reilly, Rick, "Arnold Palmer, " in Sports Illustrated, September 19, 1994, p. 70.
Grimsley, Will, editor, The Sports Immortals, Prentice Hall, 1972, pp. 306-311.
Seitz, Nick, Superstars of Golf, Golf Digest, 1978. □
Born: September 10, 1929
Arnold Palmer was the first person to make one million dollars playing golf. Palmer attracted legions of fans—known as "Arnie's Army"—who hung on his every shot, celebrating his successes and suffering his failures along with him.
Arnold Daniel Palmer was born in Youngstown, Pennsylvania, the oldest of Milfred "Deacon" Palmer and Doris Palmer's four children. He grew up in nearby Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Palmer's father gave golf lessons at the Latrobe Country Club and gave Arnold his first set of golf clubs when the boy was three years old. Arnold began to sneak onto Latrobe's nine-hole course at every opportunity. He began working as a caddie (one who carries a golfer's clubs) at the age of eleven.
While playing for the Latrobe High School golf team, Palmer lost only one match in four years. During his senior year he met Bud Worsham, whose brother was a professional golfer. At Worsham's urging, Palmer accepted a golf scholarship to Wake Forest College in North Carolina. During Palmer's senior year in college, Worsham was killed in a car accident. Shaken by Worsham's death, Palmer left school and joined the Coast Guard. In 1954 he began selling painting supplies to support his participation in amateur golf. He won the National Amateur championship that year.
Begins pro career
Palmer became a professional golfer in November 1954. A month later he married Winnie Walzer, whom he had met while playing in an amateur tournament. In 1955 Palmer won the Canadian Open, earning twenty-four hundred dollars. He captured three tournaments in 1956 and four in 1957, when his earnings of twenty-eight thousand dollars made him the number five money-winner on the tour. Palmer won three tournaments during each of the next two seasons. One of his 1958 victories was the prestigious (honored) Masters, a tournament held every year in Augusta, Georgia.
In 1960, just as golf was beginning to receive regular television coverage, Palmer's spectacular come-from-behind wins in the Masters and the U.S. Open made him a national hero. He won the British Open in 1961 and 1962 and the Masters in 1962 and 1964. Palmer became one of the nation's most famous people. He became involved with many businesses, tried acting in television and movies, and wrote a new golf book every few years. Palmer became the richest athlete in the world, with a yearly income of more than one million dollars.
Although Palmer continued to win tournaments through the 1960s, some believed that his businesses were distracting him from golf. Still, in 1970 the Associated Press (AP) named him Athlete of the Decade (a ten-year period). Palmer won only a few minor Professional Golfers Association (PGA) titles during the 1970s. In 1980 he entered the Senior PGA tour and won the PGA Seniors championship. He also captured the 1981 United States Golf Association (USGA) Senior Open, and he took the PGA Seniors again in 1984. His last victory on the Senior tour was in 1988. In 1994 he made his final U.S. Open appearance in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, where the cheers of his "Army" brought him to tears. A similar scene occurred at his last appearance at the British Open in 1995.
Palmer has received virtually every national award in golf. He had sixty-one wins on the PGA tour, including seven major championships, and he is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, the American Golf Hall of Fame, and the PGA Hall of Fame. Palmer also used his fame to benefit charities, serving as Honorary National Chairman of the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation for twenty years. He played a major role in raising money to build the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Women in Orlando, Florida. He also established a yearly fund-raising golf event for the Latrobe Area Hospital in 1992.
Palmer underwent surgery for cancer in January 1997. After he recovered, his wife was found to be suffering from a different type of cancer. She died in 1999. Palmer continued his involvement with golf. He testified on behalf of the PGA in a lawsuit brought by golfer Casey Martin, who was suing for the right to use a golf cart to move between holes while playing because of a problem with one of his legs. Palmer and others argued that the cart would give Martin an unfair advantage over other players.
In 1999 Palmer was one of several investors who purchased the Pebble Beach golf course in California for $820 million. In 2001 he was criticized for signing an endorsement contract (payment to a person for public support of a company's products) to promote a golf club that fails to meet USGA regulations. In April 2002 Palmer played in his forty-eighth and final Masters tournament in Augusta.
For More Information
Guest, Larry. Arnie: Inside the Legend. 2nd ed. Nashville: Cumberland House Publishers, 1997.
Hauser, Thomas. Arnold Palmer: A Personal Journey. San Francisco: CollinsPublishersSanFrancisco, 1994.
Palmer, Arnold. A Golfer's Life. New York: Ballantine Books, 1999.