Palmer touches every player generation at Oakmont

Thu Jun 16, 2016 2:52pm EDT
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

OAKMONT, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Golfing great Arnold Palmer, one of Pennsylvania's most famous sons, will not attend this week's U.S. Open at his beloved Oakmont Country Club but his influence lives on through almost every player in the field.

A seven-times major champion, Palmer had no peers as a fan favorite and always went to great lengths to ensure that every person waiting in line ended up with a cherished autograph, an approach that even today's generation of players tries to live up to.

With his swashbuckling style, prodigious length off the tee, bold putting and affection for the galleries, he did more than any other player to popularize the game with the advent of television.

While Palmer is at home this week in nearby Latrobe because of increasing mobility problems due to failing health, young guns such as Justin Thomas and Matthew Fitzpatrick are well aware of the massive golfing impact made by the 'The King'.

"I played in a couple of Palmer Cups and every time I sign my name for fans, I know to make it legible," American Thomas, 23, told Reuters, referring to the annual team competition between golfers from U.S. colleges and European universities.

"And that's something that I learned from Mr. Palmer. He's had such an impact on our game, not only through the golf side but also because of the kind of person he is.

"His impact with the tournament he has at Bay Hill and what he does for all of us, how supportive he is with the game of golf trying to make it grow, it's really cool," said Thomas, who won his first PGA Tour title at the CIMB Classic in November.

Englishman Fitzpatrick, playing his first U.S. Open as a professional this week after tying for 48th on his tournament debut at Pinehurst in 2014 as an amateur, agreed.   Continued...

Apr 7, 2016; Augusta, GA, USA; Arnold Palmer (right) waves to the gallery as he shakes hands with Gary Player on the first tee during the first round of the 2016 The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports