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A king for the masses

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Charismatic Palmer has "Army" of fans
By Larry Schwartz
Special to

Signature Game
June 18, 1960 - Palmer was mired in a tie for 15th place and seven strokes behind leader Mike Souchak after this morning's third round of the U.S. Open at the Cherry Hills Country Club, just outside Denver. In the locker room before the fourth round, Palmer's mind was on reaching the 346-yard first hole with one swing.

"If I drive the green and get a birdie or an eagle, I might shoot a 65. What'll that do?" Palmer asked two writers/friends, Bob Drum of the Pittsburgh Press and Dan Jenkins of Sports Illustrated. "Nothing," said Drum. "You're too far back."

"It would give me 280," Palmer said. "Doesn't 280 always win the Open?"

"Yeah," laughed Drum. "When Hogan shoots it."

But it was Palmer who had the last laugh. He drove the first hole and birdied it. He birdied the next three holes as well and six of the first seven. His 30 on the front nine tied the Open record.

With two holes left, he was tied with legendary Ben Hogan, a four-time Open winner. But the 47-year-old Hawk found water on the final two holes, going four over par while Palmer parred them. Palmer finished with that 65 he had talked about and won his only U.S. Open with his 280. It was two strokes better than a 20-year-old amateur, some fat kid named Nicklaus.

"On that afternoon, in the span of just 18 holes, we witnessed the arrival of Nicklaus, the coronation of Palmer and the end of Hogan," wrote Jenkins.

Grand Slam Wins
Year Major Score Course Location
1958 Masters 284 Augusta National Augusta, Ga.
1960 Masters 282 Augusta National Augusta, Ga.
1960 U.S. Open 280 Cherry Hills CC Denver, Colo.
1961 British Open 284 Royal Birkdale Southport, England
1962 Masters 280 Augusta National Augusta, Ga.
1962 British Open 276 Royal Troon Troon, Scotland
1964 Masters 276 Augusta National Augusta, Ga.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • At age seven, Palmer broke 100.

  • As a youngster, Palmer was only allowed on the Latrobe course (it was just nine holes then) in early morning or late afternoon, when the members weren't playing.

  • In 1958, Palmer made $20,000 in endorsement and appearance money. The next year, he met a young Cleveland lawyer, Mark McCormack, whose financial acumen turned Palmer into a millionaire. By 1966, Palmer was president of his own company.

  • After winning the Masters and U.S. Open in 1960, Palmer's bid for the Grand Slam ended when he lost the British Open by one stroke to Kel Nagle at St. Andrews.

  • Palmer never finished worse than ninth at Augusta between 1958 and 1967.

  • His best round on tour was a 62 - at the 1959 Thunderbird Invitational and the 1966 Los Angeles Open. His best round ever was a 60 at his home Latrobe Country Club course in 1969.

  • Sports Illustrated once described Palmer as "combining the boldness of a Brink's bandit with the fearless confidence of a man on a flying trapeze. He doesn't play a golf course; he assaults it."

  • The term "Arnie's Army" was created by Johnny Hendrix in the Augusta Chronicle.

  • About Palmer and his army, George Plimpton once said, "Trying to follow Palmer down the course was not unlike running before the bulls at Pamplona."

  • The Associated Press voted Palmer the "Athlete of the Decade" for the 1960s, beating out such stars as Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Jim Brown and Sandy Koufax.

  • In 1971, Palmer bought the Latrobe Country Club course where his father once was head pro. Palmer's younger brother Jerry is the club's general manager. Arnie also is president and principal owner of the Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Fla., the site of an annual PGA Tour stop.

  • Palmer's last PGA tour victory was the 1973 Bob Hope Desert Classic, a tournament he won five times.

  • With 62 PGA victories, Palmer ranks fourth all-time, behind Sam Snead (82), Nicklaus (73) and Hogan (64).

  • He has 10 victories on the Seniors Tour, with his last being the Crestar Classic in 1988.

  • He also has won 19 international tournaments.

  • He holds the record for most Ryder Cup victories with 22. He's lost eight with two ties in his six competitions.

  • On Sept. 2 and 3, 1986, Palmer recorded holes-in-one on the same hole. He has 16 holes-in-one in his career, three in PGA Tour events.

  • Here's one way to measure Palmer's influence on the game: When he was born in 1929, there were more than 5,000 golf courses in America, and most were private. In 1960, when Palmer took over as the sport's reigning king, there were more than 6,000. In 1994, when Palmer was 65, there were 14,648, and more than half were open to the public.

  • Palmer is a co-founder of The Golf Channel, launched in 1995.

  • In 1999, Palmer, Clint Eastwood and Peter Ueberroth led a group that bought Pebble Beach for $820 million.

    Palmer proposed to Winnie Walzer four days after meeting her at a tournament in 1954. They were married for 44 years until Winnie died of cancer in 1999.

  • Palmer was a strict father in helping raise their two daughters, Peggy and Amy.

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