Golf’s most beloved figure, Arnold Palmer, dies at 87

Golfweek- Arnold Palmer, a seven-time major winner who brought golf to the masses and became the most beloved figure in the game, died Sunday, a source close to the family confirmed to Golfweek. He was 87.

Reaction poured in from “Arnie’s Army” of admirers in the world of golf.

“We loved him with a mythic American joy,” said Palmer biographer James Dodson. “He represented everything that is great about golf. The friendship, the fellowship, the laughter, the impossibility of golf, the sudden rapture moment that brings you back, a moment that you never forget, that’s Arnold Palmer in spades. He’s the defining figure in golf.”

No one did more to popularize the sport than Palmer. His dashing presence singlehandedly took golf out of the country clubs and into the mainstream. Quite simply, he made golf cool.

“I used to hear cheers go up from the crowd around Palmer,” Lee Trevino said. “And I never knew whether he’d made a birdie or just hitched up his pants.”

Golfweek subscriber Bob Conn of Guilford, Conn., in a letter to the editor, captured the loyalty and devotion that the public felt for Palmer.

“If Arnold Palmer sent me a personal letter asking me to join the cleanup crew at Bay Hill, I would buy a green jumpsuit, stick a nail in a broom handle, grab some Hefty garbage bags and shake his hand when I arrived.”

It wasn’t just the fans. His fellow competitors revered him, and the next generation and the generation after that worshiped him. When reporters at the 1954 U.S. Amateur asked Gene Littler to identify the golfer as slender as wire and as strong as cable cracking balls on the practice tee, Littler said: “That’s Arnold Palmer. He’s going to be a great player some day. When he hits the ball, the earth shakes.” Read more