By: Dave Hill WGCA contributing writer
Arnold Palmer came from humble beginnings. As a boy, he was not permitted in the clubhouse at Latrobe Country Club, where his father oversaw the duties as head professional and greenskeeper. However, this did not stop him from becoming the legend everyone could not help but love.
We could give Arnie every admirable adjective under the sun to describe his character, and he’s deserving of them all. Arnold Palmer truly brought the game to the masses. He took nothing for granted, which is likely a tribute to his roots and upbringing in the small working-class town of Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
On the day following his passing, I’m thinking about the state of the game when he entered the scene compared to now. It makes me think we’ve perhaps forgotten about the roots of the game, a game Arnold not only loved, but wanted everyone to play by sharing his passion in a such a modest and humane fashion, which was his gift to us all.
Is it fair to state one person can change the tide of an industry or culture? If anyone did, it was certainly Arnold Palmer. In the history of the game, there has been no one like him. Yes, we had Walter Hagen’s bravado, which broke down doors for professionals, and John Daly’s appeal to the working-class guy. However, the persona of Arnie was all-encompassing, not only in North America, but worldwide. In Japan alone, the Arnold Palmer brand is iconic, as it is fashionable and expands well beyond the world of golf. Perhaps the best way to describe Arnold is in the form of an oxymoron – “a humble jetsetter” – and in literal terms, he was.
So the question or questions now are, is it possible to ask a player, any player, to take on such a role? Is there a player out there who can, wants to, or has the persona to do so? Perhaps not, but what we are witnessing is a younger, newer breed of professionals who seem to be getting it right. The first name that comes to mind is Rickie Fowler. His brand seems to have crossed over to different demographics. He is the consummate gentleman, has a swashbuckling appeal both on and off the course, and his game shows signs of brilliance at times. He is no doubt a fan favorite, but the torch in today’s game is too big to carry alone.
It is important for the growth of the game that today’s and tomorrow’s biggest names take a page out of Arnie’s legacy and continue to carry the bright torch he carried throughout his life.