You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Arnold Palmer, Golf’s First Major Superstar, Dies at 87

Golfer Arnold Palmer, whose skill and swashbuckling style made him one of the biggest stars in the sport and a beloved figure to the general public, died Sunday. He was 87.

The United States Golf Association tweeted the news on Sunday, after Golf Digest first reported Palmer’s death. His longtime assistant told the Washington Post that Palmer died at a Pittsburgh hospital ahead of a planned heart surgery.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Arnold Palmer, golf’s greatest ambassador, at age 87,” wrote the USGA.

A talented athlete who garnered generations of fans, becoming a star just as TV was able to document it, Palmer remained involved in the golf world up until his death. Along with winning seven majors and playing the Masters for 50 consecutive years, Palmer also co-founded the Golf Channel, the first cable network devoted a single sport.

Palmer was notably the first client of Mark McCormack’s sports management firm, IMG, now WME/IMG. The legend has it that the two shook hands on a representation agreement in 1960 which allowed McCormack to build the sports agency powerhouse. Palmer remained a client until his death and IMG will continues handle business and licensing operations for his estate.

“Arnold Palmer set the standard for athletes in life and in business with his passion, charisma, and dedication,” said WME/IMG co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell. “We will forever remember him as IMG’s first client and a man who profoundly shaped the modern-day sports industry. On behalf of all of our employees and partners, we send our deepest condolences to Arnold’s family, friends and fans.”

Palmer’s longtime IMG rep, Alastair Johnson, cited his influence and achievements notched far beyond the golf course. “He was an iconic American who treated people with respect and warmth, and built a unique legacy through his ability to engage with fans,” Johnson said.

A native of Latrobe, Pa., Palmer won the Masters four times, the British Open twice and the U.S. Open once between 1958 and 1962. He racked up 62 wins on the PGA tour. His nickname on the circuit and among fans was simply “the King.”

Though he never won the PGA Championship, he finished as runner-up three times. All in all, the Wake Forest alum nabbed 95 professional golf titles over his long career, and was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.

A friend to fellow athletes and presidents alike, he received a Congressional Gold Medal in 2009, after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 from President George W. Bush. He appeared at the Masters for his 50th time, his last, in 2004, and retired from professional golf two years later.

Aside from his athlete prowess, Palmer, with his charm and style, became a businessman and million-dollar brand name. Many will remember him for the eponymous drink, a mixture of tea and lemonade. He also spearheaded the Orlando, Fla.-based Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation that supports a range of organizations focused on aiding children, the environment and supporting health and wellness efforts.

Palmer is survived by his second wife, Kit; two daughters, six grandchildren including Sam Saunders who plays on the PGA tour. He is also survived by a brother and two sisters.

President Barack Obama released a statement on Monday “saluting” the late golf star.

With his homemade swing and homespun charm, Arnold Palmer had swagger before we had a name for it. From a humble start working at the local club in his beloved Latrobe, Pennsylvania, to superstardom as the face of golf around the globe, Arnold was the American Dream come to life.

Along the way he racked up win after win – but it wasn’t his success that made him King. Arnold’s freewheeling, fearless approach to the game inspired a generation of golfers and, for the first time on TV, enthralled an audience across the world. Sure, we liked that he won seven majors, but we loved that he went for it when he probably should have laid up.

That spirit extended beyond the links where he gave freely of himself and poured everything he had into everything he did: from building hospitals to personally responding to countless letters from his fans. And he did it all with a grin that hinted maybe he had one more shot up his sleeve.

Today, Michelle and I stand with Arnie’s Army in saluting the King.

The golf world was quick to grieve Palmer’s death, taking to social media to express condolences. Tiger Woods thanked the late legend for “friendship, counsel and a lot of laughs.” “Your philanthropy and humility are part of your legend,” he added.” See more reactions below.

More Biz

  • Stranger Things

    Coca-Cola Will Revive New Coke in Alliance With Netflix, 'Stranger Things'

    A rush of TV watchers to streaming video has prompted Coca-Cola to test an interesting pour. Coca-Cola will bring New Coke back to market for a brief time, all part of a partnership with Netflix, which has featured Coke in its cult-favorite series “Stranger Things.” The third season of the series, set in 1985, will [...]

  • Doug Davis and Jodie ShihadehVariety Power

    Jodie Shihadeh Named Partner at The Davis Firm

    Jodie Shihadeh has been named Partner at The Davis Firm, PLLC. She joined the firm in 2011 and rose from associate to Managing Attorney and now partner. She graduated from Boston College and received her law degree from Fordham University School of Law in 2011. While still in law school she interned in the Business [...]

  • Peak TV Saturation TV Placeholder

    Nickelodeon Alum Keith Dawkins Sets Kidvid Partnership With Believe Entertainment Group

    Former Nickelodeon executive Keith Dawkins has partnered with Believe Entertainment Group to develop children’s programming. Dawkins will partner with Believe under his newly formed Rock Hill Media Ventures, which aims to advise companies in media, entertainment and sports on working with diverse and emerging talent. Dawkins previously spent 17 years at Viacom, most of which [...]

  • CBS Studios Exterior

    CBS Credit Union Manager Pleads Guilty to $40 Million Fraud

    The manager of a credit union for CBS employees pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court on Monday to a $40 million embezzlement scheme. Edward Rostohar, 62, was arrested in March after the scheme began to unravel. According to prosecutors, he admitted to stealing money from the bank for the last 20 years. Rostohar is [...]

  • Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The

    CAA's Packaging Fee Becomes Flashpoint in 'Walking Dead' Litigation

    The issue that is at the heart of the WGA’s present standoff with talent agencies has flared up as a source of tension in the litigation between AMC Networks and Frank Darabont and CAA over profit participation on “The Walking Dead.” The practice of talent agencies receiving packaging fees for helping to assemble the creative [...]

  • Sony Music to Deliver ‘Real Time’

    Sony Music to Deliver ‘Real Time’ Data, Royalty Payments to Artists

    Sony Music today announced two new payment features for its artists — “Real Time Royalties” and “Cash Out” — through its artist portal beginning this fall. 

A memo sent to artists Monday morning and obtained by Variety says  the initiatives will “allow our artists and royalty participants to view and withdraw earnings faster than ever [...]

  • Whitney Houston

    Whitney Houston Estate Plans Hologram Tour, Album, Musical

    In the seven years since Whitney Houston’s death, there has been relatively little of the asset-exploitation that usually follows the passing of a music icon, apart from a smattering of previously unreleased recordings, a pair of harrowing documentaries and a lot of unflattering press. But according to an article in the New York Times, the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content