10 Defining Arnold Palmer Moments

Through his incredible play, charisma and charm, Arnold Palmer transcended the game of golf. 

In honor of what would have been his 90th birthday, we took a look back on 10 defining moments in the King’s life. 

1953 U.S. Coast Guard


Most people know Arnold Palmer as the golfer with his own “army.” But before his playing days, he was Arnold Palmer, member of the U.S. Coast Guard. Palmer chose to drop out of Wake Forest University and enlist in 1950 after the death of a close friend. He served as a recruit, or yeoman, until 1953. During his time serving, he was granted the freedom to practice golf. He returned to Wake Forest and promptly won the U.S. Amateur Championship in 1954. 

“The knowledge that I gained, the maturity that I gained in the Coast Guard was unbelievable. It matured me,” said Palmer, according to the Coast Guard Compass. “It made me a better person for the world and I believe that in my own right. The military isn’t just restrictions and military duties. It’s learning and it’s very important that young people have that opportunity to learn and to know themselves a little better and I think the military helps put that in the right perspective.”

1958 Masters

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It’s Tuesday Shoes-day…and what a pair we have! Arnold Palmer’s black and white wing-tip shoes that he wore when he won the 1958 Masters sold at auction over the weekend for $66,000!! The shoes, which were gifted from Palmer to his personal pilot, were signed by Arnie with a permanent marker, adding “1958 Masters” on each shoe. To put that figure in perspective, the ’58 Masters awarded Palmer just $11,250 for winning the green jacket that spring. ⛳️ ⛳️ #golf #golfer #golfing #golflife #ilovegolf #golfswing #golfball #golfgods #instagolf #golfstagram #golfaddict #golfishard #growthegame #lpga #golfhere #golfcourse #whyilovethisgame #pga #elbowspringsgolfclub #calgary #yyc #alberta #arnoldpalmer #1958masters #wingtips #arniesarmy

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In 1958, Palmer won the 22nd playing of the Masters Tournament, the first of his four green jackets. But the win didn’t come without some controversy. On the 12th hole, an embedded ball had Palmer ask for relief. At the time, he wasn’t granted it and made double bogey. Upset over the questionable ruling, he played another ball from the same spot after taking relief and made par. Several holes later, it was determined his par would stand. It was also during this tournament that Sports Illustrated writer, Herbert Warren Wind coined the term “Amen Corner” in a story recounting the action.

1960 U.S. Open

Palmer’s lone U.S. Open victory came in 1960 at Cherry Hills Country Club in Colorado. The King seemed to be out of contention beginning the final round seven strokes back. Palmer started the day by driving the green on the 346-yard first hole setting up an opening birdie which set the tone. He shot 65, which at the time was the lowest round ever in U.S. Open history, and was good enough for a two-shot victory over an amateur named Jack Nicklaus. The driver he used is still on site at the club.

1960 Arnold Palmer Drink

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During that same 1960 U.S. Open victory, the “Arnold Palmer” drink was born. Palmer always had a habit of drinking ice tea with lemonade at home, but this time it was different. He was at the Cherry Hills Country Club ordering his standard concoction when a woman nearby overheard him. As the story goes, the lady ordered “that Palmer drink” for herself, and the liquid legend was born. 

1962 Open Championship

In 1962, Arnold Palmer won his second consecutive Open by six strokes at Troon Golf Club. It was the sixth of Palmer’s seven major titles and the second of the year after he won his third Masters in April. Many believe his efforts to travel across the Atlantic to compete across the pond in the 1960s at a time when few Americans entered the tournament because of travel, small purse, weather, and the unfamiliarity of links courses, helped boost the status of the Open among US players.

1967 – PGA Tour’s First Millionaire

In 1967, Arnie became the first man to reach the one million dollars in career earning on the PGA Tour. That same year he won four times, as well as his fourth Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average.

1973 Ryder Cup 

Palmer’s Ryder Cup resume is something else. He was fifth in most appearances with 32 matches and racked up 23 points (second most all time). He played on six Ryder Cup teams: 1961, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1971, and 1973. He was the last playing captain in 1963, and was a non-playing captain in 1975. The U.S. won all seven Ryder Cups he was a part of. 

1974 – Purchases Bay Hill Club and Lodge

Arnie bought Bay Hill Club and Lodge in 1974 after falling in love with the grounds and turned it into one of the premier clubs in the U.S. He thought of it as his home away from Latrobe, Pennsylvania. In fact, the Arnold Palmer Invitational has been played here every year since 1979. This was one of the many big business ventures he was involved in. He also had a huge course design business and helped fund the launch of Golf Channel back in 1995.

1976 Trip Around the World

Arnold Palmer was also a world class pilot. Not only was he one of the first to fly himself from tournament to tournament, he set a world record for the fastest trip around the world. It took him and co-pilots Bill Purkey and Jim Bir in a Learjet 36 named Yankee 200 a total of 57 hours, 25 minutes and 42 seconds to complete the journey. 

2004 Presidential Medal of Freedom

In 2004, Arnie was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush, which is the highest civilian award of the United States. He also was bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009 by President Barack Obama. If there were any higher national honors we’re sure he would’ve won those too!