Monday, September 26, 2016

Another Legend Passes

The "big three" of golf: Gary Player, Arnold Palmer,
and Jack Nicklaus (
Having foregone television on school nights, I made up for it on weekends when I watched sports---no, not the big three of football, basketball, or baseball which we couldn't see well on our tiny black-and-white sets and which we only got on tape-delay in Hawaii anyway---but the obscure ones like roller derby and professional wrestling. These "sports" had good guys and bad guys, people who were courteous to their opponents and others who played dirty.

Golf didn't really have any bad guys (unless you count the intense burly kid from Columbus who later successfully tempered his image) but there was one good guy, Arnold Palmer, who attracted so many fans at tournaments that they were designated "Arnie's Army." Time:
Arnold Palmer, who died on Sunday at 87, won his first Masters in 1958, during America’s great postwar expansion. This ascendant era spawned the leisure class, which took to golf, Eisenhower’s favorite game, and to the couch, to watch new TV sets in their living rooms. Into this fold stepped Palmer, a champ so strapping that he didn’t just sell golf to the masses watching the final round on Sundays. He sold clothes, rental cars, the cigarettes he smoked on the tee. Jack Nicklaus may have won more major championships than Palmer: 18 to Arnie’s 7. Michael Jordan may have moved more product. But the growth of golf, the growth of all sports as a marketing force boosting the bottom line of multibillion-dollar corporations, owes a debt to “the King.”
Arnold Palmer had an easygoing persona that translated well into the cool medium of television. And he was a winner who, because this is America, caused even little kids watching thousands of miles away to root for him. R.I.P.

[Update - 9/28: Great cover on the King of golf from SI.
He created a vicarious thrill unlike any player before him and none since. When his skills faded and his hair turned silver and then white, he exuded grandfatherly warmth that was also unmatched. For these and other reasons, he was not only the most beloved figure ever to play golf but also the rare golfer who was able to transcend a niche sport and become an international figure.]

No comments: