PITTSBURGH, PA – One of the true greats of golf, Arnold Palmer, has passed away at the age of 87.
His family confirmed the news to Golfweek, and the United States Golf Association has also expressed their condolences on the passing of Palmer.
We are deeply saddened by the death of Arnold Palmer, golf's greatest ambassador, at age 87. pic.twitter.com/iQmGtseNN1
— USGA (@USGA) September 26, 2016
Alastair Johnson, CEO of Arnold Palmer Enterprises, confirmed that Palmer died of complications from heart problems in Pittsburgh.
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.
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.
Palmer was a seven-time major winner, taking home 4 Masters titles, one US Open title and one Open title. His popularity did wonders for the sport of golf. He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2012.
Palmer is survived by his second wife, Kit, daughters Amy Saunders and Peggy Wears, six grandchildren, including Sam Saunders, who plays on the PGA Tour.
Here is a look at the life of Arnold Palmer:
Personal: Birth date: September 10, 1929
Birth place: Latrobe, Pennsylvania
Birth name: Arnold Daniel Palmer
Father: Milfred Jerome (Deacon) Palmer, golf club pro
Mother: Doris M. Palmer
Marriages: Kathleen “Kit” (Gawthrop) Palmer (January 26, 2005-present); Winnie (Walzer) Palmer (December 20, 1954-November 20, 1999, her death)
Children: with Winnie Palmer: Amy, 1958; Peggy, 1956
Education: Attended Wake Forest College, 1947-1951 (dropped out senior year)
Military service: US Coast Guard, 1951-1954
Other Facts: Learned to play golf at age three, taught by his father the Latrobe Country Club golf pro.
Winner of over 90 golf tournaments and is the first person to make $1 million playing golf.
Is credited with bringing golf into the mainstream and making it popular with people outside of country clubs.
Palmer’s fans were known as Arnie’s Army and followed him on the weekly PGA Tour events.
Built a financial empire with endorsements and other golf-related ventures, including co-founding the Golf Channel.
Quit Wake Forest and joined the US Coast Guard after his roommate, Bud Worsham, was killed in a car accident.
Proposed to his first wife after knowing her for three days.
Is a licensed jet pilot and flies a Cessna Citation X.
Timeline: 1954 – Wins the United States Golf Association Amateur Championship.
November 1954 – Turns pro and signs a sponsorship contract with Wilson Sporting Goods.
1958, 1960, 1962, 1964 – Wins The Masters.
1960 – Wins the US Open.
1961, 1962 – Wins the British Open.
1971 – Buys the Latrobe Country Club, the same course where he learned to play golf.
1974 – Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
1980 – Wins the Seniors Championship, his first event on the Seniors Tour.
1981 – Wins the US Seniors Open.
1993 – Presented with the National Sports Award by President Bill Clinton.
1994 – Makes his final appearance at the US Open.
1995 – Makes his final appearance at the British Open.
1996-1997 – Diagnosed and successfully treated for prostate cancer.
1997 – The Palmer Cup is established, a competition showcasing American and European college golfers.
2003 – The Arnold Palmer Prostate Center is established. The center is part of the Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center within the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California.
2004 – Receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.
2004 – Makes his 50th and final appearance at the Masters.
2006 – Plays his last Champions Tour event.
2007 – The Bay Hill Invitational, held at Palmer’s Bay Hill Club, is renamed the Arnold Palmer Invitational. This is the second PGA tour competition to be named after someone; the Byron Nelson championship is the other.
March 25, 2012 – Is hospitalized overnight due to high blood pressure. He is unable to present the winner’s trophy to Tiger Woods after the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
September 12, 2012 – Palmer receives the Congressional Gold Medal that was signed by President Barack Obama in 2009 in a ceremony at the US Capitol. Jack Nicklaus attends the ceremony. Palmer is the sixth sportsman to receive the award.
March 2016 – Palmer is ranked third on Forbes’ 2016 list of The Highest-Paid Retired Athletes, with estimated earnings of $40 million in 2015.