DODSON: Arnold Palmer, the Everyman King

Hans Deryk—Reuters
Arnold Palmer bows and tips his cap after hitting his tee-shot on the first hole during a pro-am event at the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament in Orlando March 12

Over the days and week to come, we’ll all be reminded of Arnold Palmer’s extraordinary impact on golf and American life in general and the mammoth-hearted legacy he leaves behind:• How his 62 PGA Tour wins, 90 tournament victories worldwide and seven major championships defined the life of a man from the rural heartland of western Pennsylvania;
• How he almost singly pioneered the concept of modern sports marketing, created a business model that turned into an empire stretching from golf tees to sweet tea; and
• How he grew to be golf’s most visible and charismatic force, its greatest philanthropist and most beloved ambassador.During his half century reign, and largely because of him — in my view and that of many fellow historians — golf enjoyed the largest and longest sustained period of growth in history, a remarkable period that included the formal creation of no less than six professional tours, witnessed television’s incomparable impact, saw the rebirth of the Ryder Cup and revival of European golf, the rise of international stars and nothing less than a scientific revolution in the realms of instruction, equipment technology and golf course design — all of which Arnold played some kind of role in.How much of this cultural Renaissance was due to this kind, genuine, fun-loving and passionately competitive family man who grew up showing off for the ladies of Latrobe Country Club and earning nickels from them by knocking their tee shots safely over a creek on his papa’s golf course?Impossible to fully quantify, I suppose. Though I would be inclined to say just about everything.
The common man’s monarchGolf is the most personal game of all, a solitary walk through the beautiful vagaries of nature. And Arnold Palmer was the most personal superstar in the history of any sport, a true blue son of small-town America, the kid next door who grew up to become a living legend, a homegrown monarch for the Everyman in each of us, a King with a common touch.His charm and hearty laugh and that extraordinary undying love of the ancient game he was meant by Providence to elevate like nobody before him — all that will surely live on as long as people young and old tee up the ball and give chase to the game.But he will be missed.Oh, how Arnold Palmer will be missed by each and every one of us in a truly personal way.
Author James Dodson has written extensively on golf and was Palmer’s collaborator on the autobiography “A Golfer’s Life.” A Greensboro native, Dodson lives in Southern Pines. This piece is excerpted from an original post on