Palmer’s im­pact on sport was im­mense

Mark he left went well beyond his play­ing ca­reer, ex­tend­ing ev­ery­where from tele­vi­sion to en­dorse­ments

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Doug Fer­gu­son AP Golf Writer

CHASKA, MINN. >> Jack Nick­laus, Tiger Woods and Jor­dan Spi­eth all chased the Grand Slam, golf’s holy grail of win­ning all four ma­jors in one year.

Arnold Palmer is the one who cre­ated it.

When he turned 50, it was Palmer who brought en­thu­si­asm and cred­i­bil­ity in 1980 to a fledg­ling cir­cuit known then as the Se­nior PGA Tour. And it flour­ished be­cause no one got tired of watch­ing Arnie. To­day, nine play­ers who prob­a­bly should be re­tired al­ready have made at least $1 mil­lion.

The Golf Chan­nel in­ter­rupted cov­er­age of the PGA Tour Cham­pi­ons event Sun­day night when Palmer died at age 87, and the net­work pro­vided con­tin­u­ous re­ports on his legacy, high­lights of his great­est vic­to­ries and im­ages of the count­less re­la­tion­ships Palmer de­vel­oped. One of those lega­cies was the Golf Chan­nel it­self, which he co-founded in 1995.

“It is not an ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say there would be no mod­ern day PGA Tour with­out Arnold Palmer. There would be no PGA Tour Cham­pi­ons with­out Arnold Palmer. There would be no Golf Chan­nel with­out Arnold Palmer,” PGA Tour Com­mis­sioner Tim Finchem said. Some of Palmer’s great­est in­flu­ences on the game:


It was rare for Amer­i­cans to play in the Bri­tish Open in the decade af­ter World War II, mainly be­cause the prize money wasn’t enough to cover travel ex­penses. Palmer helped re­turn golf’s old­est cham­pi­onship to its glory in 1960, and he gave the sport a new stan­dard to chase.

He won the Mas­ters and U.S. Open in 1960 when he trav­eled over to St. An­drews for the Bri­tish Open. On the jour­ney across, he raised the no­tion of the mod­ern Grand Slam — the four pro­fes­sional ma­jors — to sports writer Bob Drum. Palmer was run­ner-up to Kel Na­gle that year. He won the Bri­tish Open at Royal Birk­dale in

1961, and he de­fended his ti­tle the fol­low­ing year at Royal Troon.

Amer­i­cans fol­lowed his lead soon there­after.

“His con­tri­bu­tion to The Open Cham­pi­onship was, and re­mains, im­mea­sur­able,” R&A chief ex­ec­u­tive Martin Slum­bers said.


Palmer came along about the time tele­vi­sion be­gan to take an in­ter­est in golf, and he quickly be­came a star. Two years af­ter CBS Sports first tele­vised the Mas­ters, Palmer won the first of his four green jack­ets. The mar­riage of Palmer and TV sent golf to an un­prece­dented level of pop­u­lar­ity.

Frank Chirkinian, the late golf pro­ducer for CBS Sports, once said Palmer “had more charisma than any 10 guys I ever met. Maybe more than any 100. You just had to know to keep the cam­era on him.”


One of the more piv­otal

mo­ments in the his­tory of mod­ern golf — all sports, for that mat­ter — was the hand­shake agree­ment be­tween Palmer and IMG founder Mark McCor­mack to rep­re­sent him in con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Palmer was more than a golfer. Com­pa­nies couldn’t get enough of him, and he cap­i­tal­ized on the op­por­tu­nity. His earn­ings went from $6,000 a year to more than $500,000 in the first two years of his agree­ment. He had deals with Pennzoil and Rolex, Cadil­lac and United Air­lines, Call­away and Heinz Ketchup.

In 2011, nearly 40 years af­ter his last PGA Tour vic­tory, Palmer was No. 3 on Golf Di­gest’s list of top earn­ings at $36 mil­lion a year. He trailed only Tiger Woods and Phil Mick­el­son.

Golf Chan­nel

Palmer and Joe Gibbs founded a new net­work in 1995 called the Golf Chan­nel, which im­me­di­ately was panned as a waste of air time. Ten­nis mag­a­zine de­scribed it as “24 hours of chubby guys in bad clothes speak­ing in jar­gon that only they un­der­stand.”

In the early days, even

Palmer had his doubts, and the ques­tion arose whether in­vestors should cut their losses. They asked Palmer what he thought, and his an­swer is now on a wall at Golf Chan­nel head­quar­ters in Or­lando, Florida.

“I said, ‘Let me say this to you: If I didn’t try to hit it through the trees a few times, none of us would be here,”’ Palmer said in 2015.

Now, ev­ery golf fan knows about the Euro­pean team at the Ry­der Cup be­cause Golf Chan­nel tele­vises the Euro­pean Tour, along with the LPGA Tour, the PGA Tour Cham­pi­ons and the week­day rounds of all PGA Tour events.

Pri­vate Travel

Palmer pi­loted his first air­craft in 1956, and 10 years later, he had a li­cense to fly jets that now are the stan­dard mode of trans­porta­tion for top play­ers, even though most are merely pas­sen­gers.

He set a record in 1976 when he cir­cum­nav­i­gated the globe in 57 hours, 25 min­utes and 42 sec­onds in a Lear 36. He stopped fly­ing his Cessna Ci­ta­tion 10 when he was en­cour­aged not to re­new his li­cense at age 81.


Arnold Palmer fol­lows the flight of his shot at the Glenn Camp­bell Los An­ge­les Open in 1976.


Palmer com­petes dur­ing the U.S. Open at Olympic Coun­try Club in San Fran­cisco in 1966.

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