Arnold Palmer was Tiger Woods
40 years before Tiger Woods. His down-to-earth, approachable personality and aggressive style of play helped make golf more than a country club status
game. He, along with the growth of television
, brought golf
to the masses
...and brought the masses to golf. Palmer had throngs of fans (known as "Arnie's Army
") the way Tiger does now.
Palmer (DOB: 9/10/1929, Latrobe, Pennsylvania) won seven major tournaments (1958, 1960, 1962, 1964 Masters; 1960 U.S. Open; 1961 and 1962 British Open; the PGA Championship was the only major Palmer did not win in his career).
Palmer had 60 wins on the PGA Tour (61 according to some sources, including Palmer's company's online biography of him), with his first coming in 1955 (Canadian Open), several months after winning the U.S. Amateur Championship. He also was an impressive 22-8-2 in Ryder Cup matches, including being the playing captain of the American side in 1963 (the 22 wins remains a record). Palmer also won 10 tournaments on the Senior PGA Tour (some sites say 12), including the 1980 and 1984 PGA Seniors Championship and the 1981 U.S. Senior Open. His overly aggressive style on the golf course won him a myriad of fans, but might have cost him some golf tournaments.
Off the course, Palmer's become even richer with his business ventures, some golf-related, some not. He's the co-founder of the Golf Channel cable network.
Palmer has won many awards and honors, including being named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 1960, Associated Press Athlete of the Decade in the 1960s, being a charter member of the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974 and being inducted into the PGA Hall of Fame in 1980.
In 1999, ESPN's SportsCentury selected Palmer as #29 on their list of the 100 greatest North American athletes of the 20th century.
Recently (in 2001), Palmer has been involved in a bit of controversy. After signing a long-term contract with Calloway Golf Clubs, Palmer started endorsing their ERC II golf clubs, which have been declared non-conforming (illegal) by the United States Golf Association (USGA). For this, he was been widely criticized, despite his insistence that he believes the clubs he's endorsing are superior products, and his support is not related to the money he's receiving.
Regardless, Palmer remains a golf legend, and along with Jack Nicklaus, helped elevate golf as a sport decades before Tiger Woods.