It has been just over a week since US golfer Arnold Palmer, viewed as one of the greatest and most influential players in the sport’s history, died at the age of 87 and the tributes continue to flood in from all corners of the globe.
Thursday’s opening ceremony to the Ryder Cup in Hazeltine featured a wonderfully moving memorial to the legendary Arnold Palmer, nicknamed “The King” by golfing fans and peers. Palmer, who was unbeaten in six Ryder Cups as a player and two as captain, was a well-deserved ambassador of the historic tournament that just saw Team USA, this year dubbed “the best team, maybe, ever assembled”, win back the title after almost a decade of playing runner-up to Europe.
“Arnold loved this competition as he loved all things in golf,” said USA Captain Davis Love III. “Arnold, this one is for you.”
Palmer, with Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, made up “The Big Three” who were widely credited for popularising the sport since the 1960s. With his humble background, Palmer helped change perceptions of golf as an elitist, upper-class pastime and broke down barriers for others to access and love the game. In a career that spanned more than six decades, he won 62 PGA Tour titles from 1955 to 1973, and to this day remains fifth on the Tour’s all-time victory list.
Besides his love of golf, Palmer had another great passion. Flying aeroplanes. In his lifetime he clocked up over 18,000 hours of flying but still reminisce about what it was like before taking to the skies when he joined the pro tour in 1955 and drove from tournament to tournament in a caravan.
Palmer said, “You don’t realize how big our country is until you drive it. On some of those longer jumps between tournaments, I almost literally climbed out of my car onto the first tee. All of that driving in the early years convinced me that flying was the only way to go.”
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