Iconic Palmer had a per­sonal touch to game

Baltimore Sun - - BASE­BALL - Bal­ti­more Sun re­porter Don Markus con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle.

(82), while five play­ers, but not Palmer, have cap­tured golf’s mod­ern ca­reer Grand Slam. (Palmer won four Mas­ters ti­tles, two Bri­tish Opens and one U.S. Open, but he failed to win the PGA Cham­pi­onship.)

Yet it was Palmer who earned, and never re­lin­quished, the so­bri­quet “King.” His im­pact on golf was un­equiv­o­cal and tran­scen­dent. Armed with big bi­ceps and a flat stom­ach, Palmer brought raw ath­leti­cism to a dis­ci­pline many con­sid­ered more skill than sport.

He rev­o­lu­tion­ized sports mar­ket­ing as it is known to­day, and his suc­cess con­trib­uted to in­creased in­comes for ath­letes across the sport­ing spec­trum.

Palmer’s first pro­fes­sional ma­jor vic­tory, at the 1958 Mas­ters, serendip­i­tously in­ter­sected with the phe­nom­ena of tele­vi­sion. His chis­eled looks and bold style of play made him a com­pelling lead ac­tor in golf’s weekly play­house the­ater.

Palmer’s his­toric vic­to­ries were matched only by his his­toric col­lapses. The same man who ral­lied from seven shots be­hind on the fi­nal day to win the1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills Coun­try Club in Colorado also blew a fi­nal-day seven-shot lead to lose the 1966 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Fran­cisco.

Palmer’s home­made, corkscrew swing — once likened to some­one wrestling a snake — ap­pealed to week­end hack­ers who also lacked text­book form.

“I was of­ten where they were as I came down the stretch, in the rough, the trees, or up the creek,” Palmer wrote in his 1999 bi­og­ra­phy, “A Golfer’s Life.”

His putting could be siz­zling hot or dis­as­trously frigid. Palmer, some­times to his detri­ment, never changed his ap­proach.

But it was Palmer’s ap­peal to non­golfers, and women es­pe­cially, that made him a cross­over star. Tele­vi­sion brought Palmer into Mid­dle Amer­ica’s liv­ing room, where he be­came a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire who never lost a con­nec­tion to the com­mon Joe.

Arnold Daniel Palmer was born in Youngstown, Pa., on Sept. 10, 1929 — just days be­fore the stock mar­ket crashed. He was the old­est of four chil­dren by Dea­con and Doris Palmer. The Palmers lived in nearby La­trobe, where Dea­con pro­vided golf lessons and served as greenskeeper at La­trobe Coun­try Club.

At La­trobe High, he won con­sec­u­tive Penn­syl­va­nia school­boy cham­pi­onships be­fore fol­low­ing his friend Buddy Wor­sham to play golf at Wake For­est Univer­sity.

The turn­ing point of his ca­reer came with his vic­tory at the 1954 United States Am­a­teur Cham­pi­onship at the Coun­try Club of Detroit — Palmer al­ways con­sid­ered Arnold Palmer rev­o­lu­tion­ized sports mar­ket­ing as it is known to­day, and his suc­cess helped drive in­comes for other ath­letes. it his “eighth” ma­jor.

Palmer won his first tour­na­ment, the Cana­dian Open, in 1955 and gar­nered $7,958 that year in prize money.

Palmer’s sec­ond PGA Tour vic­tory — and his first in the United States — came in the 1956 East­ern Open at Bal­ti­more’s Mount Pleas­ant Golf Course.

Two lo­cal 16-year-old golfers, Hank Ma­jew­ski and John Pruitt, de­cided to skip the Bal­ti­more City ju­nior tour­na­ment. Ma­jew­ski en­tered the tour­na­ment as an am­a­teur, while Pruitt cad­died.

“In those days, you used to draw [a player], and I asked John, ‘Who’d you get?’ ” Ma­jew­ski re­called Sun­day night. “He said: ‘I should have played in this tour­na­ment in­stead of cad­dy­ing. I got some guy name Arnold Palmer.’ ”

Af­ter hit­ting his open­ing tee shot out of bounds, Palmer thought about pack­ing up his clubs and with­draw­ing on the spot.

“I was a lit­tle bit of tem­per guy in those days and I shoved my club back in the bag and said to my play­ing part­ners: ‘I’m out of here,’ ” Palmer re­called dur­ing the 1998 State Farm Se­nior Clas­sic at Hob­bit’s Glen Golf Club in Columbia.

One of them, Doug Ford, told Palmer to stick it out. “He said: ’Oh, you can spot the field two shots,’ ” said Palmer, who would win by two shots.

In 1993, Ma­jew­ski was work­ing as a rules of­fi­cial at the 1993 PGA Cham­pi­onship at In­ver­ness Club in Toledo, Ohio, and had a locker near Palmer’s in the club­house.

“I re­minded him of that story, and I can tell you that he re­mem­bered ev­ery de­tail,” Ma­jew­ski said Sun­day.

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