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Arnold Palmer - The Man From Latrobe

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Born in Latrobe, PA, Arnold D. Palmer is widely thought to be one of the best golfers ever to play the game. Palmer has been the winner of a number of PGA Tours in addition to the Champions Tour since his first big tournament win in 1955. Palmer is simply known as "The King" among many fans and players alike and has achieved worldwide fame. He is acknowledged, along with Gary Player and Jack Nickaus as one of the Big Three in the game. With the advent of televised golf matches in the 1950's, Palmer's playing which led to a growing interest in the sport.

Arnold got his passion for playing golf from his father Deacon Palmer who was a professional greens keeper at Latrobe Country Club. Remarkably, at only age seven, Arnold golfed an impressive 70 at Bent Creek Country Club. Even though his father worked at the Latrobe Country Club, which was only nine holes back in the day, Arnold was only allowed to play in the early mornings or late afternoons, if club members weren't using the course.

He attended the popular Wake Forest University appropriately on a golf scholarship and served for three years in the Coast Guard. During this time, while continuing to develop his golf skills, he married Winifred Walker who he met while playing in a Pennsylvania golf tourney. During his rookie season, he won the Canadian Open and surged ahead with personality and business ideas that made golf a sport people became interested in and wanted to watch-many people give Palmer the credit for the sport becoming so popular.

His first major championship win came in the 1958 Masters - within two years he was one of the biggest names in the game. One thing which helped was his signing on with the agent Mark McCormack. Asked later on what it was he saw in the young Palmer, he answered: "his good looks, his modest background, the way he played golf, his risk taking and wearing his heart on his sleeve, and his involvement in so many exciting early televised finishes." One of the first US golfers to win the English Open, Palmer quickly became an international golf superstar and won the Masters in the years 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964. He also won the US Open in 1960 and the English Open again in 1961 and 1962. In any case, his best years were 1960 through 1963. In this time period, Palmer won 29 PGA Tour Events in only four seasons of play.

In 1960, Arnold was named Sports Illustrated top pro athlete of the year and he won the Sportsman of the Year award. His fans, known as "Arnie's Army," cheered if their Arnie became the first man to reach one million dollars in career earnings in 1967. Even with pros like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player playing alongside him, Arnold managed to win a PGA Tour every year all the way up to 1970 and in 1971 he enjoyed a rejuvenation of his career winning four events.

He won four Vardon trophies for lowest average score and played on six different Ryder Cup teams. By 1980, Palmer became eligible for the PGA Senior Tour (now known as the Champions Tour). Palmer won ten events on the Senior Tour and thanks to the efforts of his agent became the highest earning golfer in the game, winning many endorsements and sponsorships. Outside of the game, Palmer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush; the highest honor given to civilians.

In 2004, Arnold played in The Masters for the last time-his 50th consecutive appearance and if he missed the cut at the 2005 US Senior Open, he then announced he would not play any further senior majors, retiring from golf in 2006. To the delight of Arnie's Army, one of his most memorable events was during the 2004 Bay Hill Invitational where standing over 200 yards from the 18th green, he lashed his second shot onto the green with a driver. Even Arnold smiled and celebrated the moment along with his grandson/caddie, Sam Saunders.

Beyond golf, Arnold is involved in many businesses including the Bay Hill Club and Lodge (the home of the Arnold Palmer Invitational), helped organize and create The Golf Channel, and helped to build the first golf course in the People's Republic of China. He started The Arnold Palmer Design Company and moved to Orlando, Florida in 2006. He has owned the Latrobe Country Club since 1971-something Laaaytrobians won't let anyone forget. In 2000, he was ranked a deserved sixth greatest player of all time in Golf Digest and was awarded the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award (1998) and made it into the World Golf Hall of Fame (1974). Perhaps Palmer's most popular characteristic is indeed his character-a warm, full of laughter, genuine man who simply loved to play golf.

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