Magazine article USA TODAY

"Arnie's Army" on the March Again

Magazine article USA TODAY

"Arnie's Army" on the March Again

Article excerpt

Long before the game of golf was given over to the immodest, foul-mouthed likes of Tiger Woods and his ilk, it was Arnold Palmer who almost singlehandedly popularized the sport with his mass appeal some 50 years ago. Palmers swashbuckling, go-for-broke style, combined with an aggressive, somewhat-failing swing, plus movie-star looks and charisma, immediately made him a star like no other.

"I always said if they put a flagstick on a limb of a tree, he'd figure out a way to get the ball to stop on the limb," said golfing great Billy Casper.

Bobby Jones, another legend of the links, agreed: "If I ever had to have one putt to win a title for me, I'd rather have Arnold Palmer hit it ... than anybody I ever saw."

Byron Nelson, meanwhile, admired the tenacious Palmer for his determination. "You knew that if there was someone on the golf course like Arnold, it's never over. You couldn't help but be impressed by how driven he was to win"

Added Jack Nicklaus, one of only three men with more PGA tour wins than Palmer, "Arnold was not a good driver. And he kept having to hit it out of the trees and out of the woods--but he kept making the shots. People loved him because he won doing that."

Arnold Palmer was born in 1929 in Latrobe, Pa. His father was the superintendent at Latrobe Country Club, where the Palmer family lived off the sixth hole. Palmer now owns the course.

When he was 17, Palmer won five West Penn Amateur Championships. At Wake Forest, he was a top collegiate player before withdrawing from school--and joining the Coast Guard--following the death of a close friend. After his three-year hitch, he won the 1954 U.S. Amateur Championship. A few months later, he turned pro.

Palmer's first triumph in a "major" was the 1958 Masters. The name for Palmers intensely loyal legion of fans--Arnie's Army--originated at this tournament. Soldiers from a nearby Army base attended, many holding homemade signs to show their support for the popular golfer, and the name stuck. His "Army" also saw him take the Masters in 1960, 1962, and 1964.

Palmer's most dramatic and memorable victory just may have been the 1960 U.S. Open in which he erased a seven-stroke deficit in the final round--a tournament record. …

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