Arnold Palmer: The King Who Built an Empire
By: Tommy Zimmer – Arnold Palmer was known as The King for a reason. To this day, he remains number five on The PGA Tour’s all-time victory list, only behind Sam Snead, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Ben Hogan. He was one of the first inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. Between the 1958 Masters and 1964 Masters, he won seven titles over a six-year period. He also later received the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. While Palmer cemented such a magnificent standing in the world of golf, he started very simply at Latrobe Country Club.
Palmer grew up in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and was able to learn from his father, Deacon Palmer, the head golf professional and greenskeeper, in maintaining the course. Initially attending Wake Forest University on a golfer’s scholarship, he abandoned his plans there and entered into the US Coast Guard for three years after the death of his friend, Bud Worsham in 1950. Palmer’s Coast Guard pursuits took him to Cape May, New Jersey, where the US Coast Guard Training Center was. There, he built a nine-hole golf course, where he practiced to make sure his skills were great.
Following his time in the US Coast Guard, Palmer made his return to golf, winning the 1954 US Amateur in Detroit, Michigan. This win convinced him that he needed to go professional to compete in bigger golf tournaments. He explained how important it was. “That victory was the turning point in my life,” Palmer stated. “It gave me confidence I could compete at the highest level of the game.” Palmer would go on to win many accolades throughout his life such as The Vardon Trophy during 1961, 1962, 1964, and 1967. The Vardon Trophy is given to the PGA Tour leader in scoring average by the PGA Tour of America. He also would get the chance to play on six Ryder Cup teams during 1961, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1971, and 1973. His skills transcend the game of golf.
Palmer was also a businessman. Throughout his life, he designed over 300 different golf courses across five continents (excluding Antarctica and Africa), 37 states, and 25 countries. He also went and purchased the Latrobe Country Club, where his father had worked as the head professional all of his life. However, one of the greatest stories in the man’s lifetime was that of how he created the infamous Arnold Palmer drink. In a 30 for 30 short, The King explained how it came about.
“My wife made a lot of iced tea for lunch, and I said, ‘Hey babe, I’ve got an idea,’” Palmer stated. “You make the iced tea and make a big pitcher, and we’ll just put a little lemonade in it and see how that works. We mixed it up, and I got the solution about where I wanted it and I put the lemonade in it. I had it for lunch after working on the golf course. I thought, ‘Boy, this is great, babe. I’m going to take it when I play golf. I’m going to take a thermos of iced tea and lemonade.’”
Palmer says he even told a waitress how to make it at a Palm Springs restaurant and a woman nearby him overheard him. She immediately said she wanted an Arnold Palmer. The rights to his drink were eventually sold to AriZona Beverage Co. In 2010 alone, sales went past $100 million. The drink never caused anyone to have an addiction and need the best rehabs in Texas. It did not ever have any alcohol in it until Palmer changed course.
In fall 2011, the Arnold Palmer Hard was introduced, which was the traditional Arnold Palmer drink with five percent of alcohol in the 24 oz cans. The danger with this drink is the addictive quality of the drink. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc (NCADD), 17.6 million people struggle with alcohol abuse or dependency. This represents one in every 12 adults out there, and several million are willing to take part in risky or binge drinking that may lead to alcoholism. While Arnold Palmer has enjoyed a drink or two in his day, specifically his favorite being the Bay Hill Hummer, he inspired another golfer to create his own drink, based on the Arnold Palmer.
In October 2017, John Daly launched his John Daly’s Grip It & Sip It. “My official drink is finally here!!” Daly wrote on Instagram. “If you’re gonna enjoy a John Daly’s (Grip It and Sip It) make sure it’s the real deal! Tested, retested and mixed just right – be careful though one just isn’t enough! Check out where to grab one near you they’re selling out fast! Great for the course or just and on the go! Lemme know how you like ’em…they’re better than good!”
What Daly is not telling you, however, is that his drink is essentially close to the same thing as the Arnold Palmer Hard. You could still be exposed to the dangers of alcoholism and end up at the best rehabs in Texas. It would be fascinating to hear what The King would have to say about Daly taking his signature drink and evolving it into something he says that’s all his own but very well might not be.
Palmer passed away right after his 87th birthday on September 25, 2016. He was about to undergo heart surgery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Three days before, Palmer was admitted for testing on his heart. Quite fitting, following the cremation of his body, his ashes were scattered at the Latrobe Country Club, where his love of golf developed and the guiding light of his father showed him how not only to appreciate the game but the very green grass you play on.
“As my father taught me, and he drove home that point, he said, ‘Just remember something. You don’t need to tell anybody how good you are. You show them how good you are.’ And he drove that home with me. So I learned early not to brag about how good I was or what I could do but let my game take that away and show them that I could play well enough,” Palmer recounted. For The King himself, it all began with father and son.
Tommy Zimmer is a writer whose work has appeared online and in print. His work covers a variety of topics, including politics, economics, health and wellness, addiction and recovery, and the entertainment industry.