ARNOLD PALMER, A GREAT MAN

You’ve heard a lot about Arnold Palmer in the last 24 hours since his death, so I’m not going to bore you with a bunch of useless information about the great man. Most of you are too young to remember what Palmer meant to golf back in the middle of the 20th century, so I’ll try to explain briefly,

It was the 1960 Masters Tournament. Mr. Palmer was one stroke behind Ken Venturi, the leader in the clubhouse, with 2 holes to play. He needed a birdie on 17 or 18 to tie Venturi and go into a playoff the next day.

Palmer birdied #17 for the tie, then he birdied #18 for the win. His win was so dramatic and the whole world suddenly saw on TV how exciting golf could be. It’s one of those moments where you had to be there. All of a sudden, everyone was intrigued with the sport. MIllions of people took it up. Millions of people joined “Arnie’s Army” the tens of thousands of fans who followed only their beloved Arnie every round in every tournament he played. All this before Jack Nicklaus turned pro or Tiger Woods was even born.

Often, Palmer would repeat the drama by willing the ball into the hole and pulling out dramatic wins. His swing was crude. He muscled the ball great distances. He was often in trouble and just as often he would dramatically save himself with an impossible shot. Arnold Palmer as a young man was the epitome of the inspired athlete. He was muscular, and as much a jock as any football player or boxer.

Golf boomed. Suddenly, hundreds of courses were being built. Golf, which had been a rich man’s sport became the activity of choice for men, women, youngsters, rich, poor, no matter. And it all started with Arnold Palmer’s win at the Masters and continued with his maintaining his winning ways,

To make this an even better story, Palmer was such a gentleman, such a good person, so successful in all walks of life outside golf.

Arnold Palmer was a truly great man, and, unlike many professional athletes, a great role model for our children. As long as golf is played, all of us golfers will owe its accessibility to Arnold Palmer.

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