Arnold Palmer, golf’s original superstar, was the first man to bring the sport of golf to the masses, writes Matthew Morrow.
Born into a modest household, Arnold Palmer was the first to show that golf was not just for the elite and wealthy. He helped commercialise the game, bringing vast sponsorship money into golf. He paved the way for Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson and also aided the explosion in popularity of the game in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Palmer’s flair and spectacular style of play created a buzz and excitement around the game. Palmer always took on the risky shot; he would play without fear where others would play the percentages. His rise as a player coincided with the emergence of televised sport in America in the 1950’s which brought a game, previously considered elitist, to the masses.
His most prolific period of winning came in the early 1960’s, when he won five majors in four years and nearly thirty tournaments overall, a period of dominance only subsequently rivaled by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
Palmer proved his critics wrong time and time again and finished his career with seven majors, including four US Masters titles being placed inside the top 10 at Augusta every year from 1957 to 1967. He finished his career with sixty two tournament victories, putting him fifth on the all time list.
His rivalry with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, particularly around Augusta National in the 1960’s captured the imagination of golf fans everywhere. These three players still start the tournament every year with ceremonial drives down the first fairway in what is one of the Masters’ more iconic image.
In terms of Majors, Palmer won three of the four available – with the US PGA Championship the only one of the four that eluded him, being runner-up three times, finishing an agonising one shot behind 48-year-old Julius Boros in 1968.
Palmer was involved in seven Ryder Cups, finishing on the winning side every time in an era of US dominance and was the last playing captain in the 1963 matches.
Matthew Morrow, Pundit Arena.