Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
Former PGA Tour Champion
Currently Known For:
Former PGA Tour Champion
When sports on television started to become commonplace in the United States, golf was one of the first sports to have made stars of its athletes. Having individuals front and center helped to make these golfers celebrities, and Arnold Palmer was among the first to find massive levels of fame and fortune because of the exposure. While some younger people might know his name because of the famous beverage, Palmer is considered to be among the top five greatest golfers in the sport’s history thanks to a long list of tournament victories.
Palmer was born on September 10, 1929 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where his father taught him the sport of golf. Having been able to play at the country club in which the elder Palmer maintained as a club pro, Palmer was able to develop in golf at a young age, and became the best player in his high school team. Several colleges had been interested in having Palmer play for their teams, but it was Wake Forest that ended up getting the future star. His college career would be cut short, however, as Palmer joined the Coast Guard, and in his early 20s returned to golf where he played in amateur tournaments.
In 1954, Palmer would win a nationwide tournament of amateurs that convinced him that he should focus on golf full-time. With that, he quit his day job and turned professional later in the year, not having to wait long until he started to win tournaments at the highest level. Not many rookies win during their first year as a professional, but Palmer would excel, and quickly became a fan favorite. The new television coverage of professional golf was looking for a marketable star, and the very charismatic and friendly Palmer that came from a blue collar town was the perfect formula.
In 1958, Palmer would win his first major championship, securing the famous green jacket at the Masters. It was an event where Palmer excelled, winning the title three more times during the first half of the 1960s. Palmer also added a U.S. Open win in 1960 and wins at The Open Championship (often referred to as the British Open) in 1961 and 1962 in times where it was considered strange to see an American player win. The only major title that escaped Palmer was the PGA Championship, in which he finished as the first runner-up on three occasions.
Palmer’s seven major titles put him in a tie for seventh all-time with the likes of Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead. The fact that he had seven is quite impressive, as he was playing in the same era as Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus, of course, had more majors than anybody else with 18. Palmer finds himself at number fifth all-time in wins on the PGA Tour with 62, while Snead leads with 82 (though it’s likely Tiger Woods takes the distinction in the coming years).
The success that Palmer enjoyed, he says, came from a strategy that he developed before each round, saying that it was important to have this system “you have confidence in and rely on it when you get into tough situations.” Palmer added that “I’m talking about techniques, the fundamentals of the game that you’ve practiced all your life. When you run into a tight spot, a situation so complicated that you’re not sure of the way out, that’s when you fall back on your system to take you where you want to go.”
With several times leading the PGA Tour in money earned and being the Player of the Year twice, his run during the 1960s was one of the most impressive in sports history. Off the links, Palmer was also a big name in business as he had many different ventures, including in owning and designing golf courses that have spanned the world. There’s always that one business that stands out above the rest, though, and that’s his beverage. Palmer made mixing lemonade with iced tea and sugar famous, and eventually saw his face put on the can of the official drink. For around 20 years, Arnold Palmer drinks have been sold in stores, and continue to fly off the shelves.
Palmer’s success in business had to do with what he used on a personal basis. “When I started (in golf), I was trying to do anything I could to be successful. But most of the brands I endorsed were ones I used myself. I take some price in my common sense, and I try to conduct my business dealings with that.”
Palmer continued to play the sport that he loved for his entire life. Like most retirees that spend their time on the course, even one of the greatest golfers to ever live was no exception. After having celebrated his 87th birthday, Palmer’s health unfortunately began to deteriorate, as his heart suffered from problems that required surgery. While he was at a hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Palmer had passed away from heart failure, officially ending one of the greatest careers in sports history.
Throughout the golf world, Palmer’s legacy was remembered as countless tributes came pouring in. The greatest golfers in today’s game all looked up to Palmer, with many having multiple encounters with the legend. Many knew that Palmer had a lot of money as a result of golf and a successful business venture, but many were surprised to learn that it had gotten close to $1 billion. Millions made their way to charity in Palmer’s final act, and he’ll always be remembered as one of the best to ever pick up a golf club.