Golfing legend Arnold Palmer has died aged 87 of complications from heart problems. He ranks among the most important figures in golf history, and his fame went well beyond his seven major championships and 62 PGA Tour wins.
Palmer successfully made the elite sport of golf appealing to everyone with his good looks and devilish grin. It helped that he was at ease with both presidents and the golfing public, and the fact that he exploded onto the scene at the same time as televisions moved into most households.
He had a huge influence on the golfers of today, who have been paying their tributes to him online.
Showing just how wide-reaching Palmer’s impact was, famous faces from outside the world of golf have also been paying their respects.
It wasn’t just golf where Palmer was a pioneer. He revolutionised sports marketing, paving the way for other athletes to reap millions from endorsements. Some four decades after his last PGA Tour win, he ranked among the highest earners in golf.
On the golf course, Palmer was famous not for how often he won, but the way he did it.
He would hitch up his trousers, drop a cigarette and attack the flags. With powerful hands wrapped around the golf club, Palmer would slash at the ball with all of his might, then twist his muscular neck and squint to see where it went.
He never liked being referred to as “the King”, but the name stuck.
Even if you’re not a huge fan of golf, chances are you’ve come across Palmer in a bar. The combination of iced tea and lemonade is known as an “Arnold Palmer”.
Palmer was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, the oldest of four children. His father Deacon became the greenskeeper at Latrobe Country Club in 1921 and the club pro in 1933.
Palmer’s first wife, Winnie, died in 1999. They had two daughters, and grandson Sam Saunders plays on the PGA Tour. Palmer married Kathleen (Kit) Gawthrop in 2005.
Rory McIlroy, one of today’s top golfers, told the BBC: “I don’t think anyone in any sport has left a legacy like Arnold Palmer has.”