Walk on any golf course on the planet, and a mention of the name Arnold Palmer is sure to draw smiles from whoever’s playing that day. If there were a Mount Rushmore for the golfing world, Palmer would almost certainly be on it. He’s a titan of the sport, influencing it in countless ways.
One way Palmer has left his undeniable imprint on the game involves how he’s influenced younger generations of golfers. One story, in particular, about current PGA superstar Rory McIlroy, cements Palmer’s legacy as ‘The King.’
Arnold Palmer’s golfing career
Palmer’s career is absolutely legendary. Born on September 10, 1929, he became one of the biggest names in golf in the ’60s. From 1955 to 2011, he earned over $2.1 million on the PGA Tour and over $2.2 million on the Senior Tour.
Palmer’s foreign, international, and non-U.S. tour earnings total over $2.5 million, making his cumulative competitive earnings just over $6.9 million. Palmer has 92 career victories; 62 on the U.S. Tour, 18 internationally, and 12 on the Senior Tour. Among those victories are seven wins in majors, including:
- 1958 Masters
- 1960 Masters
- 1960 U.S. Open
- 1961 Open Championship
- 1962 Masters
- 1962 Open Championship
- 1964 Masters
Palmer was very accomplished outside of golf as well. He became a successful business executive and golf course designer. He was also well-known for the kindness he showed to everyone he met.
The lasting legacy of Palmer
The golf world mourned when Palmer passed away in 2016. He was one of the game’s giants — impossible to replace. Upon his passing, his grandson and PGA Tour golfer Sam Saunders commented on how he thought his grandfather would be remembered:
“We live in a big world, with billions and billions of people, and not many are able to have a huge reach … My grandfather was one of those people who did, and the way he used it — to help others — makes him a hero to me. He lived by the saying, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ He felt he had a responsibility to give back.”
Palmer’s game was great, but it paled in comparison to his generosity. He served as the national spokesman for the March of Dimes from 1979-89. He and his wife also founded the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation to advance the cause of improving children’s health nationally.
The golfer’s generous spirit extended beyond his charity work, however. It also extended to fans and fellow Tour members.
Arnold Palmer’s letter to Rory McIlroy
McIlroy is one of the great stars of today’s game. After his first major, reports USA Today, he received a letter from Palmer congratulating and encouraging him after his recent success. Palmer told McIlroy:
“You’re now in a position where you have the opportunity to give back to the game that is making you famous and I hope, and certainly feel sure, that you will live up to that obligation in the months and years ahead. Just continue to be yourself. Don’t change.”
He also wrote a letter to University of Michigan sophomore Nick Carlson, congratulating him on a top-four finish at the U.S. Amateur Championship in 2016. Carlson received it after the legend passed away, making it even more special.
Palmer believed in genuinely connecting with players and fans. It’s one of the reasons he believed in writing personal letters as well as making his signature legible; he wanted anyone receiving his autograph to be able to read it. Palmer was undoubtedly a great golfer, but the stories of his letters to show he was an even better person.