Arnold Palmer, golf's "King," dies at 87

By The Sports Xchange   |   Sept. 26, 2016 at 12:08 AM
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Golf legend Arnold Palmer, whose style and everyman quality led to a worldwide legion of followers known as "Arnie's Army," died Sunday at age 87.

He died at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he had been since Thursday while undergoing heart tests, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Palmer, a Latrobe, Pa., native who won seven major championships in his career -- the Masters four times, the Open Championship (British Open) twice, and the U.S. Open once -- is most famous for bringing the elitist game to the masses with his dramatic flair and blue-collar background.

The U.S. Golf Association tweeted, "We are deeply saddened by the death of Arnold Palmer, golf's greatest ambassador, at age 87."

Tiger Woods tweeted, "Thanks Arnold for your friendship, counsel and a lot of laughs. Your philanthropy and humility are part of your legend. It's hard to imagine golf without you or anyone more important to the game than the King."

Jack Nicklaus, a longtime Palmer rival, posted a tweet that read in part, "(We) just lost one of the incredible people in the game of golf and in all of sports. ... He was one of my best friends, closest friends, and he was for a long, long time. I will miss him greatly."

Palmer was even recognized Sunday night by President Obama, who tweeted, "Here's to The King who was as extraordinary on the links as he was generous to others. Thanks for the memories, Arnold."

Palmer's health deteriorated the past couple of years. His last public appearance was on the first tee of the 2016 Masters.

His career accomplishments are plentiful. Palmer attended Wake Forest University on a golf scholarship. At age 24, he won the 1954 U.S. Amateur at the Country Club of Detroit. Later that year, Palmer turned pro.

In a career that spanned more than six decades, he won 62 PGA Tour titles, good for fifth all time. He led the PGA Tour money list four times and was the first player to win more than $100,000 in a season.

Palmer played on six Ryder Cup teams and was the winning captain twice. His first tour win came in the 1955 Canadian Open, and his last tour victory came in the 1973 Bob Hope Desert Classic -- a tournament he won five times.

Palmer's first and last major wins came in the Masters in 1958 and 1964. In between, he won at Augusta National in 1960 and 1962. He captured the 1960 U.S. Open and the Open Championship in 1961 and 1962. The only major tournament he never won was the PGA Championship, in which he came in second three times.

Palmer also was a four-time U.S. Open runner-up, and he finished second once in the Open Championship and twice in the Masters.

Palmer found additional success on what is now the PGA Tour Champions (previously the Senior PGA Tour), winning 10 events, including five majors. He was one of the early stars who helped legitimize the circuit in the 1980s.

Palmer also shined while playing for the United States in the Ryder Cup. He competed as part of the winning side all six times he appeared, one of those as playing captain in 1963, then led the United States to another victory as non-playing captain in 1975. His total of seven Ryder Cup singles points is tied for the most in U.S. history, and his overall tally of 23 points ranks second to Billy Casper's 23 1/2.

In 1974, Palmer was one of the original inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame. In 2004, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 2012 was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, giving him both of the highest honors the United States can give to a civilian.

Palmer also presided over the Arnold Palmer Invitational every March, the only living player with his name attached to a PGA Tour event.

He is survived by his second wife, Kit, daughters Amy Saunders and Peggy Wears, and six grandchildren.

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