Palmer, 'The King', leaves Arnie's Army in mourning

Sun Sep 25, 2016 11:04pm EDT
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

CHASKA, Minnesota (Reuters) - Some golfers have clothing named after them and some champions have clubs and even golf courses dedicated in their honor.

Golfing great Arnold Palmer, who died at the age of 87 on Sunday, was very different. He had his own army of followers.

'Arnie's Army' started marching in the late 1950s and continued throughout the 1960s and early 1970s in homage to one of the greatest players ever to pick up a club and surely the most charismatic.

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.

Spaniard Seve Ballesteros may have later matched him for flamboyance and American Tiger Woods in the late 1990s and early 2000s certainly eclipsed him for sustained shot-making brilliance, but no one has ever trod the fairways with such a fanatical following.

At its height, 'Arnie's Army' numbered thousands and provided the ultimate inspiration to Palmer as he stomped to 92 professional tournament wins in a career that lasted nearly 50 years.

His fan base began as a dedicated band of men from a nearby military base, hence the nickname ‘Army’, and they decided to cheer him on at the year’s first major, the Masters at Augusta National.   Continued...

Four-time Masters champion Arnold Palmer pauses and bows to the gallery as he walks to the 18th green during his final competitive appearance in the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, U.S. on April 9, 2004. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo