Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer dies at 87

Tributes have flooded in for legendary US golfer Arnold Palmer, who died on Sunday aged 87.

According to his longtime agent, Alastair Johnston, Palmer died of complications from heart problems. Johnston said Palmer was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian last Thursday for some cardiovascular work and weakened over the past few days.

He was one of golf’s dominant players in the 1950s and early 1960s, winning seven major titles over seven seasons. He won the Masters four times, The Open twice and the US Open once. Palmer also just missed collecting three US Opens losing in a playoff, the most playoff losses in US Open history.

Palmer never won the PGA Championship, and so he finished one major short of capturing a career Grand Slam, yet his influence and presence on the game is immeasurable.

He was an aggressive player and that’s what the golf fans at the time loved about him.

Arnold Palmer Arnold Palmer (Credit: www.golffile.ie)

Palmer also had the charisma to bring fans to the game. An imposing figure standing 1.9 metres in his prime and with broad shoulders and big arms, Palmer could muscle a golf course to its knees with his booming drives.

People wanted to come and watch Palmer play and see him perform and hear him speak. Palmer’s signature finish covered up one of the prime reasons he was such a great driver of the ball.

He was long off the tee and never gave up. It earned him the respect of fellow professionals and fans from around the world.

His fans made themselves known one year at the Masters parading behind him and holding up signs that read “Arnie’s Army”. Many of them were soldiers from nearby Fort Gordon who had come to the tournament just to watch Palmer.

In all of his tournament appearances, Palmer was followed by throngs of fans who would pack the fairways often ten deep. They would stand on boxes, climb trees and use cardboard periscopes, anything to catch a look of “The King”.

Palmer began his professional career in 1954. He quickly picked up his first PGA Tour win at the 1955 Canadian Open in his rookie season, and his first-round 64 remained the best opening round of his career.

He went on to win 62 titles on the PGA Tour, fifth-most all time, and 92 including international and senior victories. He was PGA Player of the Year twice (1960 and ’62) and the Tour’s leading money winner four times, with total tournament earnings of almost $7 million.

Palmer also played at least one PGA Tour event every season for 52 consecutive years, ending with the 2004 Masters.

Palmer remained highly involved in golf after retiring, hosting the annual Arnold Palmer Invitational. Palmer was also viewed as an excellent businessman, a skilled aviator and a talented golf course designer.

He received the two highest civilian honours in the United States, the Congressional Gold Medal in 2012 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004. He will be surely missed as the game has lost one of its greats.