Friday, July 20, 2018

Arnold Palmer's legacy reached far in sports, on and off golf course

Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth all chased the Grand Slam, golf's holy grail of winning all four majors in a year.

Arnold Palmer created it.

When he turned 50, Mr. Palmer brought enthusiasm and credibility in 1980 to a fledgling circuit known then as the Senior PGA Tour. And it flourished because no one got tired of watching Arnie.

Sunday night, the Golf Channel interrupted coverage of the Champions tour event when Mr. Palmer died at 87, airing highlights of his greatest victories and his legacies. One of those legacies was the Orlando-based Channel itself, which he co-founded in 1995.

Some of Mr. Palmer's other influences on the game, and all of sports:

Grand Slam: Americans rarely played the British Open in the decade after World War II. Mr. Palmer helped return golf's oldest championship to its glory in 1960, and gave the sport a new standard. He won the Masters and U.S. Open that year and raised the notion of the modern Grand Slam — the four pro majors. Mr. Palmer wound up second at St. Andrews but a new ambition for all golfers to aim at was reborn.

Television: Mr. Palmer came along just as TV began to take an interest in golf, and he quickly became a star. Frank Chirkinian, the late golf producer for CBS Sports, once said Mr. Palmer "had more charisma than any 10 guys I ever met. Maybe more than any 100. You just had to know to keep the camera on him."

Endorsements: One of the most pivotal moments in modern golf — all sports, for that matter — was the handshake agreement between Mr. Palmer and IMG founder Mark McCormack to represent him in contract negotiations. Mr. Palmer's endorsements ranged far beyond golf and in 2011, nearly 40 years after his last PGA Tour victory, Palmer was No. 3 on Golf Digest's list of top earners at $36 million a year. He trailed only Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

A public ceremony for Mr. Palmer will be Oct. 4 in Latrobe, Pa., his hometown. The funeral, later this week, will be limited to family.