Famed golfer Arnold Palmer died on Sunday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylania, the United States Golf Association confirmed via Twitter. He was 87.
Golf Digest tweeted the news early Sunday evening, sharing, “Arnold Palmer has passed away at 87 years old. Rest in peace, Arnie. You are forever a legend in golf and in life.”
The former golf pro, fondly nicknamed The King, was one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen, winning numerous events on both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour. One of golf’s most popular players, he was the first true superstar of the sport when the television age began, and is considered part of “The Big Three,” along with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
Palmer was one of the original 13 inductees welcomed into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974, and he won the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. And, yes, the Arnold Palmer drink, which consists of iced tea and lemonade, was named after him.
Following Palmer’s death on Sunday, Palmer’s longtime personal assistant Doc Giffin spoke to People and revealed his boss of 50 years tripped over his dog in 2014 and dislocated his shoulder, which led to “a bit of a downward spiral” healthwise. “He never had his vim and vigour after that,” recalled Giffin.
“It was not a good thing,” admitted Giffin, “but he always kept his hopes alive. He’d say, ‘I think I’ll go down and hit some balls today.’ He would go try but just couldn’t do it.”
Upon learning of Palmer’s passing, fellow golf icon Jack Nicklaus praised him, writing on his website: “Arnold transcended the game of golf. He was more than a golfer or even a great golfer. He was an icon. He was a legend … He was the king of our sport and always will be.”
Even U.S. President Barack Obama honoured the late golfer in a statement. “With his homemade swing and homespun charm, Arnold Palmer had swagger before we had a name for it,” said Obama in his statement. “That spirit extended beyond the links where he gave freely of himself and poured everything he had into everything he did … Today, Michelle and I stand with Arnie’s Army in saluting the King.”