Farewell to the King

Arnold Palmer rescued golf from cultural oblivion… he took an elitist pursuit unable to capture popular interest, a snobby country club activity with little potential for growth, and carried it on his back to the masses.  Truck drivers, mailmen, and factory workers picked up clubs for the first time to emulate Arnie’s furious slash of a swing and go-for-broke game.  Their wives were drawn to his working class charm and rugged physique.  Palmer cut the perfect figure for golf’s experimental run on television, the working class hero vanquishing the upper class snobs on live broadcasts.  The game could have gone the way of polo or croquet, Palmer’s career saved it.  Golf was lucky…



Millions of adoring fans joined Arnie’s Army… Palmer’s power to reach ordinary Americans led to lucrative endorsements, business ventures, and iconic stature in our culture.  But, he never forgot his fans- signing every autograph, reaching millions more through his charitable work and hospitals.  Modern golfers are multimillionaires with celebrity status, due in large part to Palmer.  His impact on the growth of the game is immeasurable.  How many fathers picked up a club and later taught their sons or grandsons because of him?  Forget the non-alcoholic beverage that bears his name, this is an impact that transcends any one course, record, or signature.



The 1994 US Open was played at Palmer’s beloved Oakmont Country Club… not far from his home in Latrobe, PA.  It was Arnie’s last US Open(his first was also at Oakmont in 1953.)  There were 159 players from 22 countries represented there; media coverage from every continent(except Antarctica) and a purse of $1.7 million.   Tears welled in Arnie’s eyes as a standing ovation awaited him on the 18th green.  After finishing his final Open putt, amidst a flood of camera flashes and microphones, a young tour pro named Rocco Mediate embraced the King and said what everyone there knew… “All of this is because of you…”


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