ZIMBABWE golf legend and former world number one Nick Price joined the global golf community in paying tribute to American golfing legend Arnold Palmer, who died at age 87 last Sunday in Pittsburgh from heart complications.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
As tributes flooded in from across the world of golf, Price said Palmer, a seven-time major winner — who brought golf to the masses and became the most beloved figure in the game — played a significant role in popularising the sport of golf, making it a viable television entity.
“There’s no coincidence that that’s why golf took off. He came along at the time television came in the 1950s and they were looking for someone straight out of the 50s, he was strong, aggressive, charging, young guy, good looking,” Price, who won three major championships during his illustrious career, said in an interview with Augusta Chronicle.
“Everything about the 50s, Arnold Palmer was. He was sort of like Cary Grant-esque. He had that panache and style. He was perfect for television. It was a mix made in heaven.”
Price said by helping usher the game into the television age, Palmer, who was nicknamed “The King” left a legacy which no other golfer would have managed to equal regardless of their generation.
“I don’t think Tiger Woods could have done what Arnold did. Tiger Woods did phenomenally with what he did, taking it to the next level. I don’t think Seve Ballesteros, Bobby Jones or [Ben] Hogan or [Sam] Snead could have done that. You needed someone of that Palmer-esque type of person to take it to that level. Someone that the fans could love — yeah, here comes Arnie, he’s going to make three straight birdies and win the tournament.”
Price said that with Palmer’s emergence, “some guy who never touched a golf club before in the 1960s, he’d tee that ball up and say, ‘here’s Arnold Palmer.’ Like you would say ‘here’s Mario Andretti,’ when he’s driving the car. His name was just golf.”
Palmer’s passing on, which came after he had been admitted to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he was scheduled to have heart surgery last Monday.
He was one of golf’s dominant players in the 1950s and early 1960s, winning seven major titles over seven seasons and attracted thousands of die-hard fans known as “Arnie’s army” wherever he played.
Along with fellow golf greats and rivals Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, they formed the fabled “Big Three” who collectively accumulated 34 major championship titles and more than 370 tournament victories around the world.
A memorial service for Palmer will be held on Tuesday at Saint Vincent College in his native Latrobe, Pennsylvania.