Arnold Palmer would have been 88 years old today…
On this day, In 1929 Arnold Palmer was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania to Doris (Morrison) and Milfred Jerome “Deacon” Palmer. His father was the head greenskeeper at Latrobe Country Club which young Arnie developed his love for the game. Palmer attended Wake Forest College on a golf scholarship. He left upon the death of close friend Bud Worsham, brother of Lew Worsham and enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard, where he served for three years. At the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, New Jersey, he built a nine-hole course and had some time to continue to hone his golf skills.
After winning the 1954 U.S. Amateur, Palmer announced his intentions to turn pro. “What other people find in poetry, I find in the flight of a good drive,” Palmer said. He notched his first of 62 wins at the 1955 Canadian Open. A few years later he won the 1958 Masters Tournament held at Augusta Country Club. Palmer then exploded onto the golf scene which became increasingly popular with the new use of televising matches. This exposure made Palmer one of the most marketable players ever to agent Mark McCormick. In later interviews, McCormack listed five attributes that made Palmer especially marketable: his good looks; his relatively modest background (his father was a greenskeeper before rising to be club professional and Latrobe was a humble club); the way he played golf, taking risks and wearing his emotions on his sleeve; his involvement in a string of exciting finishes in early televised tournaments; and his affability.
Palmer’s most prolific years were 1960–1963, when he won 29 PGA Tour events, including five major tournaments, in four seasons. In 1960, he won the Hickok Belt as the top professional athlete of the year and Sports Illustrated magazine’s “Sportsman of the Year” award. He built up a wide fan base, often referred to as “Arnie’s Army”, and in 1967 he became the first man to reach $1 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour. By the late 1960s Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player had both acquired clear ascendancy in their rivalry, but Palmer won a PGA Tour event every year from 1955 to 1971 inclusive, and in 1971 he enjoyed a revival, winning four events.
Palmer won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average four times: 1961, 1962, 1964, and 1967. He played on six Ryder Cup teams: 1961, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1971, and 1973. He was the last playing captain in 1963, and captained the team again in 1975.
In a career that spanned more than six decades, he won 62 PGA Tour titles from 1955 to 1973, placing him at that time behind only Sam Snead and Ben Hogan, and still fifth on the Tour’s all-time victory list. He collected seven major titles in a six-plus-year domination, from the 1958 Masters to the 1964 Masters. He also won the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998, and in 1974 was one of the 13 original inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Josh Morris is the Editor of Golf History Today. A proud USGA Volunteer and golf enthusiast. In his free time he enjoys being a weekend caddie as well as playing as much as he can.