Photo via PGATour.com
“The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.” These were the infamous words of Arnold Palmer, who on Sunday, September 25 passed away at the age of 87.
The son of a golf professional/greens keeper, Palmer’s roots in golf are as deeply embedded as his commitment to his community. His loose, go-for-broke attitude made him a star on the golf course, winning 62 times on the PGA Tour, including seven major championships. He was a part of the original “Big Three” (including Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player) that were responsible for commercializing golf and making it a worldwide phenomenon. The Big Three were the first generation of golfers that had their events broadcasted on TV, making them absolute superstars. Fans lauded Palmer as the epitome of the “working class hero” because of his excellent relationship with the media and the patrons. PGA star Phil Mickelson learned from Palmer to never walk past anybody without acknowledging him or her. Mickelson took this advice to heart and has since become one of the biggest stars in golf ’s history.
Palmer also has kept a very keen eye on the golf community and has kept a personal touch with its members. He sent handwritten letters to upcoming stars as young as 14, lauding their achievements and wishing them well in the future. He encouraged the young stars to stay dedicated to the game of golf while also prioritizing their educations. His guidance is legendary, which is why his death strikes close to home for so many.
Palmer was arguably the most prolific philanthropist among golfers, and his mark on the world will be felt for generations. In 1989, he opened the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, which is ranked as one of the nation’s top 30 pediatric hospitals for heart care and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report. 25 years later, Palmer’s wife, Winnie, opened the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies. Palmer’s philanthropy extended beyond children; his “Arnie’s Army” foundation has touched the lives of thousands of men inflicted with prostate cancer. In 2003, he established the Arnold Palmer Prostate Center at the Eisenhower Medical Center, which champions itself as one of the best treatment centers in the nation.
One of Palmer’s most well known achievements is the creation of the Arnold Palmer: Half Iced Tea, Half Lemonade, Fully Delicious. The legendary beverage was first seen at Cherry Hills Country Club, which hosted the 1960 U.S. Open. A woman ordering behind Arnold Palmer saw he had ordered half lemonade, half iced tea and asked for “that Palmer drink.” Over coming years, the Arnold Palmer would become a staple beverage at golf courses and clubhouses around the world.
Arnold Palmer, often referred to as “The King,” was treated as nothing less by the patrons. In 2004, tears were shed at Augusta National as Palmer walked the hallowed grounds the game of golf without him. Today, many fans, including myself, will have a difficult time imagining a world without Mr. Palmer. Rest in peace