It seemed only fitting that the U.S. Ryder Cup team earned its first victory in eight years. The Americans did, after all, have a golf god in their corner.
Arnold Palmer, known to golf simply as “The King,” died of heart complications just over a week ago.
A seven-time major winner, Palmer was a larger-than-life character who brought golf to the masses. With his unmatched go-for-broke style, he was the one who made golf cool – years before Tiger Woods was even born.
Palmer won 62 PGA Tour titles in an 18-year span, his seven majors came in a flurry from 1958 to 1964.
Jim Murray, the legendary Los Angeles Times columnist, once wrote of Palmer:
“Palmer on a golf course was Jack Dempsey with his man on the ropes, Henry Aaron with a three-and-two fastball, Rod Laver at set point, Joe Montana with a minute to play, A.J. Foyt with a lap to go and a car to catch.”
His legion of raving fans became known as Arnie’s Army.
Count John Mason as a Palmer disciple. Mason, the Director of Instruction for JC Golf, was in Minnesota attending the Ryder Cup and offered this about his idol:
“Mr. Palmer was a gentleman and always conducted himself professionally. Being here in the Midwest this week reminds me why I got into this game–people are very courteous and kind. I believe Mr. Palmer’s upbringing in Latrobe (Pennsylvania) played a large part in his character and I hope the young people of today are paying attention.”
Bryon Penfield, director of golf at the Rancho Bernardo Inn, said he always cherished watching Palmer tee off at the Masters every year with Jack Nicklaus.
“He was a true ambassador for the game, an inspiration and one of the great Hall of Famers,” Penfield said. “I will always remember the charisma and style of Arnold Palmer in the way he spoke about golf, played the game as a PGA Tour pro, and setting the tone for our generation. The King will truly be missed, but always be remembered.”
Marc Figueroa is a freelance writer who has been covering golf in San Diego for more than 20 years.