It’s hard to imagine a world of golf without Arnold Palmer. So many sports icons disappear into as much anonymity as possible after their playing days are over; but the man who was golf’s first true superstar was at home on the course whether he was winning one of his seven Majors, becoming an accomplished course architect or making Bay Hill into one the most impressive tournaments outside of the four Majors.
Playing with the President
What is often lost on modern-day golf fans is that Palmer wasn’t just a champion, he was an ambassador to the everyman who in the 1950s and 1960s had no concept of going out and playing a round of golf for pleasure or business.
He did this in large part due his friendship with then-American President Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower had a 3,000-square foot putting green built outside the White House within the first month of taking office.
Palmer met Eisenhower in 1958 and the two began playing together regularly two years later, despite Ike being 39 years older than Palmer.
Americans live vicariously through the popular former president, America’s last great war general to take the country’s highest office and the boyish Palmer who made such a vexing game look so easy.
Palmer by the Numbers
He turned pro at age 25 after winning the US Amateur for a third time. That was in 1954. He wound up winning 92 professional tournaments around the world – 62 of them on the PGA Tour – still good for fifth all-time.
He won seven Majors, all of them between 1958-1964. No other player won more than three in that timespan. He’s the first man to win the US Amateur, US Open and US Senior Open all in one year and on top of all that, he designed 250 golf courses.