He died at age 87, the man who opened the greens to the masses. For the story is how it made popular an elite sport
hey called him king, like Pele and Elvis Presley. And he had a similar impact to that of the footballer and the singer (his contemporaries) in sports and popular culture. Arnold Palmer collected millions of dollars, conquered an army of fans and inspired a cocktail: in short, he turned golf into a mass sporting spectacle (while shining as his greatest star in the 1950s and 1960s). This is the legacy that he remembers now, at the time of the death of the old American golfer, to the 87 years.
The announcement of Palmer’s death – Sunday night in a hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when he was waiting for cardiac surgery and his health condition worsened – served as a pretext for the golf world to remember how sport has changed in the last half and this was due, in large part, to King Arnold, the man who opened the gates of the greens to the masses.
The legacy of the old golf legend is, above all, a matter of numbers. He was the first to win more than $ 100,000 in a PGA Tour season and to overcome the one million prize money barrier during his career; accumulated seven million as a player and his current fortune was estimated at 100 times as a result of a global brand of drinks, food, clothing or golf course design.
These add-ons were the result of the rise of Arnold Palmer as the first major golf star in the US and worldwide – one of the Big Three plays (Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player are the others) that marked the 1960s. From his original profile (air of heartthrob, humble beginnings, empathy with the fans and style of game demolition), the player was captivating admirers who were not the typical adept of golf, then a sport connected to the elites.
The start of television broadcasts and the intensity of Palmer’s clashes with Nicklaus and Player did the rest: golf became a sport with increasing popularity and commercial value. And Arnold did not need as much success as his rivals – he won the Augusta Masters four times, one the US Open and two the British Open but failed to complete the Grand Slam – to be crowned king. His acclaim was popular: in all tournaments, he was followed by an entourage of fans, entitled Arnie’s Army , to whom, legend says, he never denied an autograph or two fingers of conversation.
Palmer’s claim as a legendary figure greatly contributed the help of Mark McCormack, a lawyer who came to represent him in 1960, being in the genesis of IMG, one of the largest agencies of sport and fashion talent worldwide. Arnold Palmer inspired an eponymous cocktail based on his favorite drink (half cold tea, half lemonade) and became a brand. The business (from food to sportswear) earned the former golfer $ 40 million just last year.
The rest of Arnold’s legacy is noted for the spread of golf beyond US borders: in the early 1960s, he helped the British Open escape the ostracism that had been voted for by US players (he participated in the British from 1960 and won it in 1961 and 1962), three decades and a half later (1995), was one of the founders of the television channel Golf Channel , and signed in the drawing hundreds of greens .
In a way, that was the complete massification of the sport that Palmer had started practicing at the age of four, at the club where his father was a greenkeeper . For golf lovers, “his legacy is the greatest that any sports star left in the last century”: Irish-born Rory McIlroy, one of the current figures of the sport.
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