Sport Golf

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Flags at Hazeltine flown at half-mast as tribute pour in for the late Arnold Palmer

Phil Casey

Published 26/09/2016 | 18:04

Flags fly at half-staff in honor of Arnold Palmer prior to the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
Flags fly at half-staff in honor of Arnold Palmer prior to the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Flags at Hazeltine were flown at half-mast on Monday as tributes continued to pour in to Arnold Palmer after one of the most beloved figures in the game died on Sunday.

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Tournament officials were also considering further ways to pay tribute to Palmer during this week's Ryder Cup, a competition in which he never tasted defeat as a player, playing-captain or non-playing captain.

Current US captain Davis Love said his side will "draw from his strength and determination to inspire us" when they try to avoid an unprecedented fourth straight defeat to Europe.

European captain Darren Clarke added: "Like everyone in the golfing community we are saddened by the news about Arnold. He was a global superstar who transcended our sport and he will be sadly missed."

Palmer, whose powerful swing, attacking approach and ready smile attracted millions of loyal fans known as 'Arnie's Army' during his illustrious career, had celebrated his 87th birthday earlier this month.

He had been in a Pittsburgh hospital awaiting heart surgery when his condition deteriorated.

A statement from Palmer's youngest daughter, Amy Palmer Saunders: read: "My family and I are deeply moved by the outpouring of support and love that we have received from the countless friends and admirers of my father.

"These first hours have been challenging but we are comforted knowing that he was loved by so many and so deeply. Words cannot begin to express the gratitude we have for the many people who have offered to help us in this time of sadness. My father would be so pleased to know that he is being thought of and recognized this way.

"Over the next couple days, we will be finalizing arrangements for his services and until then, we all appreciate the kindness everyone has shown us. On behalf of my father and family, thank you for your thoughts and prayers."

A four-time Masters champion, Palmer had been unable to perform his customary role as honorary starter in April alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player - the other members of golf's 'Big Three' - due to a shoulder injury and looked frail as he was helped to a seat on the first tee.

Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said: "His presence at Augusta National will be sorely missed, but his impact on the Masters remains immeasurable and it will never wane."

Born Arnold Daniel Palmer on September 10, 1929 - just weeks before the Wall Street Crash - the man who would become 'the King' was hardly raised in regal conditions in the blue-collar town of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, the eldest of four children.

But crucially his father Deacon, known as Deke, became the greenkeeper at Latrobe Country Club in 1921 and the club professional in 1933, giving his son the ideal start to a career which ultimately produced more than 90 career titles, including seven major championships.

Palmer won the Masters in each even-numbered year from 1958 to 1964, two Open Championships and the US Open in 1960, but never completed the career grand slam by winning the US PGA Championship - something he considered his greatest regret.

Perhaps his greatest achievement was reviving the fortunes of the Open, which had often been shunned by the leading American professionals due to the low prize money and cost and time involved in travelling across the Atlantic.

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said: "Without question Arnold's participation in the Open Championship in the early 1960s was the catalyst to truly internationalise golf. It was a proud day for everyone at the European Tour when we made Arnold an honorary member in 1995."

Nicklaus, who enjoyed a long, friendly rivalry with Palmer, said: "I wish I had another chance to talk to him, but I am so glad we talked a couple weeks ago on his birthday, when he sounded great.

"He was one of my best friends, closest friends, and he was for a long, long time. I will miss him greatly. He was the king of our sport and always will be."

Off the course, Palmer started many successful businesses, including a club company and a golf course design firm. Since 1979, the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando - which he bought in 1974 - has been a fixture on the PGA Tour, with Tiger Woods winning the title eight times.

"It is not an exaggeration to say there would be no modern day PGA Tour without Arnold Palmer," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. "No-one has had a greater impact on those who play our great sport or who are touched by it."

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