Meet Arnold Palmer, a retired American professional golfer who is widely regarded as one of the greatest golfers in the world. His career spanned almost 50 years and he is known as ‘The King’ in the golfing world. Palmer is one of the few people who popularized the sport back in the 60s and the 70s. See photos, video and a biography of Arnold Palmer here.
Palmer kick started the 2009 Augusta Masters tournament today by hitting the ceremonial first shot at the par-four hole at the Augusta National Golf Club. He had been competing in the tournament since 1955 and is the crowd-favourite.
“No one has meant more to golf than our honorary starter this morning,” Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said.
The 79 year old master golfer last competed in 2004 which was his 50th appearance at Augusta.
As a biography, Arnold Palmer was born on September 10, 1929 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He learned the basics of the sport from his father Deacon Palmer, a park-keeper at the Latrobe Country Club. He was only allowed to practice when the members weren’t playing and even then he started breaking records at the age of seven. He attended Wake Forest University and then enlisted in the Coast Guard.
Arnold won the 1955 Canadian Open in his rookie season and his charisma attracted more and more people to the sport, thanks to the TV broadcasts which started in the 50s. He won his first Masters in 1958 and was regarded as one of the leading golf players in the world at the time. Prominent sports agent Mark McCormack, who signed up Palmer as his first client, descibes his qualities:
“His good looks; his relatively modest background (his father was a greenkeeper before rising to be club professional and Latrobe was a humble club); the way he played golf, taking risks and wearing his emotions on his sleeve; his involvement in a string of exciting finishes in early televised tournaments; and his affability.”
Palmer won seven major tournaments in his career: four Masters, one US Open and two The Open Championships. He won 29 PGA Tour events in 1960-63 and he was named the Sports Illustrated ‘Sportsman of the Year’ in 1960. Palmer also won the Vardon Trophy four times in the 60s and appeared in six Ryder Cup tournaments. He was one of the ‘Big Three’ in the golfing world, others being Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. He was awarded the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998 and was included in the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
Arnold owns the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Florida which holds the Arnold Palmer Invitational and he also helped found The Golf Channel.
Palmer was named the all-time sixth greatest player by Golf Digest magazine in 2000. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President George W. Bush.
Photos: Leon Bennett/ WENN.com / Carrie Devorah / A. Miller