King made sure 'army' was happy

Arnold Palmer approaching his fans during the Par 3 contest before the 2010 Masters. He went to great lengths to ensure every member of "Arnie's Army" went home with an autograph.
Arnold Palmer approaching his fans during the Par 3 contest before the 2010 Masters. He went to great lengths to ensure every member of "Arnie's Army" went home with an autograph.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • From 1958 till 1964, Arnold Palmer was the charismatic face of professional golf and one of its dominant players.

In those seven seasons, he won seven Major titles. With 62 victories on the PGA Tour, he ranked fifth, behind Sam Snead, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan. He won 93 tournaments worldwide, including the 1954 US Amateur.

But it was more than his scoring and shot-making that captivated the sports world. It was how he played.

The American did not so much navigate a course as attack it. If his swing was not classic, it was ferocious: He seemed to throw all 83kg of his muscular 1.77m tall body at the ball. If he did not win, he at least lost with flair.

Handsome and charming, his sandy hair falling across his forehead, his shirt-tail flapping, a cigarette sometimes dangling from his lips, Palmer would stride down a fairway acknowledging his "army" of fans with a sunny smile and a raised club, "like Sir Lancelot amid the multitude in Camelot", Ira Berkow wrote in The New York Times.

And the television cameras followed along.

Palmer's celebrated rivalry with Nicklaus and another champion, the South African Gary Player - they became known as the Big Three - only added to his appeal.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2016, with the headline 'King made sure 'army' was happy'. Print Edition | Subscribe