American golf legend Arnold Palmer has died in Pittsburgh at the age of 87.
Palmer, one of golf’s greatest players whose immense popularity drew a legion of fans known as “Arnie’s Army” and helped propel the game just as television was coming of age, died on Sunday, the US Golf Association and golf media reported.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of Arnold Palmer, golf’s greatest ambassador, at age 87,” the USGA said on Twitter.
The swashbuckling American and seven-time major champion is credited with bringing golf to the TV mass audiences.
No one did more to popularise the sport than Palmer and the news of his passing is certain to overshadow the 41st staging of the Ryder Cup between the US and Europe at Hazeltine this week.
British golf owes a particular debt to Palmer, who was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, as it was his example at the start of the Sixties which persuaded the rest of the Americans to travel over for The Open Championship.
Palmer, who won 95 tournaments worldwide, was nicknamed “The King” and was still a huge figure in the sport. Residing at Bay Hill in Orlando – where he staged his annual PGA Tour tournament, the Arnold Palmer Invitational – his health had been failing for months. However, his death will be so keenly felt for a game still in his thrall.
“Arnold is the reason golf enjoys the popularity it does today,” Jack Nicklaus said. “He made golf attractive to the television-viewing public. There never has been anyone like him before in the game of golf, and there probably won’t be another like him again.”
“We loved him with a mythic American joy,” James Dodson, who wrote his biography, said. “He represented everything that is great about golf. The friendship, the fellowship, the laughter, the impossibility of golf, the sudden rapture moment that brings you back, a moment that you never forget, that’s Arnold Palmer in spades. He’s the defining figure in golf.”
President Barack Obama and former president George HW Bush were among the many notable names to weight in on the death of the icon.