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Golf stars mourn 'King' of the green Arnold Palmer

Published 26/09/2016

File-This April 29, 1962, file photo shows Arnold Palmer, lifting an iron shot from No. 5 fairway in the final round of the Texas Open in San Antonio. Palmer, who made golf popular for the masses with his hard-charging style, incomparable charisma and a personal touch that made him known throughout the golf world as
File-This April 29, 1962, file photo shows Arnold Palmer, lifting an iron shot from No. 5 fairway in the final round of the Texas Open in San Antonio. Palmer, who made golf popular for the masses with his hard-charging style, incomparable charisma and a personal touch that made him known throughout the golf world as "The King," died Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Pittsburgh. He was 87. (AP Photo/Ted Powers)
FILE--This 2004 file photo shows former Masters champion Arnold Palmer as he sits on clubhouse railing at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. Palmer, who made golf popular for the masses with his hard-charging style, incomparable charisma and a personal touch that made him known throughout the golf world as "The King," died Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Pittsburgh. He was 87. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
File-This March 18, 2001, file photo shows Tiger Woods, left, being helped into his jacket for winning the Bay Hill Invitational by tournament host Arnold Palmer in Orlando, Fla. Woods Palmer, who made golf popular for the masses with his hard-charging style, incomparable charisma and a personal touch that made him known throughout the golf world as "The King," died Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Pittsburgh. He was 87. (AP Photo/Scott Audette, File)
File-This Sept. 9, 1960, file photo shows President Dwight Eisenhower, right, enjoying a laugh with Arnold Palmer, just before they played a round of golf together in a foursome at the Gettysburg Country Club, Gettysburg, Penn. Palmer, who made golf popular for the masses with his hard-charging style, incomparable charisma and a personal touch that made him known throughout the golf world as "The King," died Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Pittsburgh. He was 87. (AP Photo/Paul Vathis, File)
File-This April 16, 1960, file photo shows a grinning Arnold Palmer surrounded by applauding citizens of his native Latrobe,Pa., shaking hands with a couple of enthusiastic boys. Palmer, who made golf popular for the masses with his hard-charging style, incomparable charisma and a personal touch that made him known throughout the golf world as "The King," died Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Pittsburgh. He was 87. (AP Photo/File)
File- This April 9, 2004, file photo shows Arnold Palmer walking across the Hogan Bridge on the 12th fairway for the final time in Masters competition during the second round of the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. Palmer, who made golf popular for the masses with his hard-charging style, incomparable charisma and a personal touch that made him known throughout the golf world as "The King," died Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Pittsburgh. He was 87. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)
File-This May 14, 1962, file photo shows Arnold Palmer holding the trophy cup after he defeated Johnny Pott, 69-73, in an 180-hole playoff match at the Colonial National Invitation golf tournament at Fort Worth, Texas. Palmer, who made golf popular for the masses with his hard-charging style, incomparable charisma and a personal touch that made him known throughout the golf world as "The King," died Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Pittsburgh. He was 87. (AP Photo/Ferd Kaufman, File)
File-This July 15, 1961, file photo shows Arnold Palmer smiling with his trophy and medal after winning the British Open Golf Championship by a single stroke at Royal Birkdale course in Birkdale, Lancashire, England. Palmer, who made golf popular for the masses with his hard-charging style, incomparable charisma and a personal touch that made him known throughout the golf world as "The King," died Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Pittsburgh. He was 87. (AP Photo, File)
File photo dated 15-07-2015 of Arnold Palmer acknowledging the crowd on the 18th during the Champions Challenge at St Andrews, Fife. PA
File photo dated 06-10-1965 of USA Ryder Cup player Arnold Palmer . PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday September 26, 2016. Seven-time major winner Arnold Palmer has died at the age of 87, Arnold Palmer Enterprises has confirmed in a statement to the Golf Channel. See PA story GOLF Palmer. Photo credit should read PA/PA Wire.
File photo dated 04-10-1965 of USA's Arnold Palmer. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday September 26, 2016. Seven-time major winner Arnold Palmer has died at the age of 87, Arnold Palmer Enterprises has confirmed in a statement to the Golf Channel. See PA story GOLF Palmer. Photo credit should read PA/PA Wire.
File photo dated 05-09-1972 of American Arnold Palmer in action during the John Player classic golf tournament at Turnberry. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday September 26, 2016. Seven-time major winner Arnold Palmer has died at the age of 87, Arnold Palmer Enterprises has confirmed in a statement to the Golf Channel. See PA story GOLF Palmer. Photo credit should read PA/PA Wire.
File photo dated 10-07-1961 of Arnold Palmer at Royal Birkdale preparing for the British Open Golf Championship PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday September 26, 2016. Seven-time major winner Arnold Palmer has died at the age of 87, Arnold Palmer Enterprises has confirmed in a statement to the Golf Channel. See PA story GOLF Palmer. Photo credit should read PA/PA Wire.
File photo dated 15-07-1961 of American Arnold Palmer with the British Open Golf Championship trophy at the royal Birkdale course, southport, Lancashire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday September 26, 2016. Seven-time major winner Arnold Palmer has died at the age of 87, Arnold Palmer Enterprises has confirmed in a statement to the Golf Channel. See PA story GOLF Palmer. Photo credit should read PA/PA Wire.
File photo dated 13-07-2010 of Arnold Palmer. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday September 26, 2016. Seven-time major winner Arnold Palmer has died at the age of 87, Arnold Palmer Enterprises has confirmed in a statement to the Golf Channel. See PA story GOLF Palmer. Photo credit should read Lynne Cameron/PA Wire.
File photo dated 16-07-1961 of A joyful Arnold Palmer of the USA shows his equally happy wife Winnie his trophy and medal after winning the British Open Golf Championship on the Royal Birkdale. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday September 26, 2016. Seven-time major winner Arnold Palmer has died at the age of 87, Arnold Palmer Enterprises has confirmed in a statement to the Golf Channel. See PA story GOLF Palmer. Photo credit should read PA/PA Wire.
Arnold Palmer pictured in 2004 after playing his final round of Masters competition at Augusta National Golf Club (AP)

Golfing legend Arnold Palmer, who brought a country club sport to the masses with a hard-charging style, charisma and a commoner's touch, has died at 87.

Alastair Johnson, CEO of Arnold Palmer Enterprises, said Palmer, known as "the King", died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, of complications from heart problems.

Mr Johnson said Palmer was admitted to hospital on Thursday for cardiovascular work and weakened over the last few days.

At ease with both presidents and the golfing public and on a first-name basis with both, Palmer ranked among the most important figures in golf history, and it went well beyond his seven major championships and 62 PGA Tour wins.

His good looks, devilish grin and go-for-broke manner made the elite sport appealing to one and all. And it helped that he arrived about the same time as television moved into most households, a perfect fit that sent golf to unprecedented popularity.

Tiger Woods tweeted: "Thanks Arnold for your friendship, counsel and a lot of laughs." He added: "Your philanthropy and humility are part of your legend. It's hard to imagine golf without you or anyone more important to the game than the King."

Jack Nicklaus, a great rival of Palmer, said: "He was one of my best friends, closest friends, and he was for a long, long time. I will miss him greatly.

"Arnold transcended the game of golf. He was more than a golfer or even great golfer. He was an icon. He was a legend. Arnold was someone who was a pioneer in his sport.

"We were great competitors, who loved competing against each other, but we were always great friends along the way. Arnold always had my back, and I had his. We were always there for each other. That never changed. He was the king of our sport and always will be."

Beyond his golf, Palmer was a pioneer in sports marketing, paving the way for scores of other athletes to reap in millions from endorsements. Some four decades after his last PGA Tour win, he ranked among the highest earners in golf.

On the golf course, Palmer was an icon not for how often he won, but the way he did it.

He would hitch up his trousers, drop a cigarette and attack the flags. With powerful hands wrapped around the golf club, Palmer would slash at the ball with all of his might, then twist his muscular neck and squint to see where it went.

He left behind a gallery known as "Arnie's Army", which began at Augusta National with a small group of soldiers from nearby Fort Hood, and grew to include a legion of fans from every corner of the world.

Palmer stopped playing the Masters in 2004 and hit the ceremonial tee shot every year until 2016, when age began to take a toll and he struggled with his balance.

It was Palmer who gave golf the modern version of the Grand Slam - winning all four professional majors in one year. He came up with the idea after winning the Masters and US Open in 1960.

He was runner-up at the British Open, later calling it one of the biggest disappointments of his career. But his appearance alone invigorated the tournament, which Americans had been ignoring for years.

He never like being referred to as "the King", but the name stuck.

"It was back in the early 60s. I was playing pretty good, winning a lot of tournaments, and someone gave a speech and referred to me as 'the King'," Palmer said in 2011.

"I don't bask in it. I don't relish it. I tried for a long time to stop that and ... there was no point."

He was equally successful with golf course design, a wine collection, and apparel that included his famous logo of an umbrella. He bought the Bay Hill Club & Lodge upon making his winter home in Orlando, Florida, and in 2007 the PGA Tour changed the name of the tournament to the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The combination of iced tea and lemonade is known as an "Arnold Palmer".

Palmer was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, the oldest of four children. His father Deacon became the greenskeeper at Latrobe Country Club in 1921 and the club pro in 1933.

He had two loves as a boy - strapping on his holster with toy guns to play cowboys and Indians, and playing golf. It was on the golf course that Palmer grew to become so strong, with barrel arms and hands of iron.

"When I was six years old, my father put me on a steel-wheeled tractor," he recalled. "I had to stand up to turn the wheel. That's one thing made me strong. The other thing was I pushed mowers. In those days, there were no motors on anything except the tractor. The mowers to cut greens with, you pushed."

Palmer's image was everywhere, from motor oil to ketchup to financial services companies.

Even as late as 2011, nearly 40 years after his last PGA Tour win, he was number three on Golf Digest's list of top earners at 36 million dollars (£27.7m) a year, trailing only Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Palmer's other love was aviation. He piloted his first aircraft in 1956, and 10 years later had a licence to fly jets that now are the standard mode of transportation for so many top players, even though the majority of them 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 continued flying his Cessna Citation 10 until he failed to renew his licence at 81, just short of 20,000 hours in the cockpit.

Palmer's first wife, Winning, died in 1999. They had two daughters, and grandson Sam Saunders plays on the PGA Tour. Palmer married Kathleen (Kit) Gawthrop in 2005.

US president Barack Obama tweeted: "Here's to The King who was as extraordinary on the links as he was generous to others. Thanks for the memories, Arnold."

Mr Palmer's one-time rival Gary Player said: "Arnold oozed with charisma, was a great icon and did so much for the game."

Rory McIlroy, one of the top golfers in the world today, told the BBC: "Arnold, especially at the time in the 60s and 70s, really brought the game to the masses.

"I don't think anyone in any sport has left a legacy like Arnold Palmer has.

"I was able to spend a little bit of time with him over the last couple of years and I'll always cherish that and remember that. He's a very good man, a very generous man, and he'll live long in the memory of a lot of people."

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the Royal & Ancient, said Palmer was "a true gentleman, one of the greatest ever to play the game and a truly iconic figure in sport".

Mr Slumbers said "his contribution to The Open Championship was, and remains, immeasurable".

He added that Palmer "will be missed and forever remembered by all at The R&A and throughout the world of golf as a charismatic and global champion of our game".

AP

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