Last month we lost golf’s most beloved icon and one of the world’s great sportsmen and humanitarians, Arnold Palmer. Palmer’s performance as a player, his magnetic personality and philanthropic ventures are second to none.
Palmer was the most important golfer in the history of the game. He brought golf to the common man who didn’t even play golf. They would watch him on TV with his aggressive swing and the way he hitched up his pants. In the ’60’s he had a following of supporters and fans called Arnie’s Army.
He was the first athlete to have business ventures outside the game of golf. He was involved in automobile and aviation services, motor oil, dry cleaners, clothing, clubs and umbrellas and even has a drink named after him. Every time you drink an Arnold Palmer (iced tea with lemonade) you can remember the man with a smile on your face.
Palmer put Hilton Head Island on the golf map when he won the inaugural Heritage Golf Tournament in 1969. Since then, he was involved in the design and building of golf courses in our community, including The Crescent Golf Club, his Signature Course at Wexford Plantation, and Spring Island’s Old Tabby Links, among 300 courses worldwide.
Palmer’s greatest contribution to society was the building of the Arnold Palmer Medical Center for Women and Children in Orlando, the largest facility dedicated to Women and Children in the United States.
He and his wife also dedicated another facility, the Winnie Palmer hospital for Women and Babies. Doctors in these facilities thought of Palmer as “The King of Hearts.”
Below are some of the accomplishments of Arnold Palmer both on and off the golf course:
- First golfer to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2004
- Congressional Gold Medal, 2009
- One of the original World Golf Hall of Fame inductees
- 62 PGA Tour wins (5th all time)
- 7 Major Championships (7th all time)
- Co-founder of the Golf Channel
- Ryder Cup Player six times
- Ryder Cup winning captain two times
- Athlete of the decade for the 1960s
Palmer collaborated this past year to write a final memoir of his life and career, titled “A Life Well Played: My Stories.”
On Sept. 25, he died of complications prior to heart surgery. Palmer’s ashes were spread over the Latrobe Country Club, where he grew up and learned the game.
I will think of Arnold Palmer every day when I see my dog Arnie, who, like his namesake, warms my heart.