Palmer, America's first commercial hero

Mon Sep 26, 2016 8:11pm EDT
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By Larry Fine

CHASKA, Minnesota (Reuters) - The earthy, endearing and gifted Arnold Palmer left a brilliant legacy in golf but he transcended the links, launching an era of sports stars as high paid pitchmen and pioneering in sports media.

"Something of a pop hero," Bob Dorfman, creative director at San Francisco's Baker Street Advertising, told Reuters about Palmer, who died on Sunday aged 87.

"A trend-setter in terms of sports endorsements on TV. It was kind of the right guy, the right personality, the right time."

Palmer, winner of seven majors, captured the public's imagination with his everyman demeanour, swashbuckling style and good looks just as television was coming of age nearly 60 years ago.

"Our first commercial sports hero," former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson said in a telephone interview. "He created the television audience that still exists today."

Beyond his go-for-broke style and accomplishments on the course, Palmer was also remembered on Monday as a philanthropist in his adopted hometown of Orlando.

Mike McCarley, president of the Orlando-based Golf Channel that was co-founded by Palmer, spoke to yet another side of 'The King'.

"There's a medical center that bears his name in Orlando because he decided that we, as a community, could do better for the kids of the community," McCarley told Reuters.   Continued...

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. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque