Long live Arnold Palmer.
To be blunt, 2016 has been an awful year with all of the lives that have been lost, especially on the celebrity and athlete front. One of the more recent losses includes Arnold Palmer, the golfing legend that inspired an entire generation. Tuesday, a funeral was held for the golfer who passed on September 25 while awaiting heart surgery.
Jack Nicklaus, one of Palmer’s rivals on the course but best friends off it, emotionally eulogized “The King” in a speech that USA Today provided a transcript of.
“He was an everyday man. Everyone’s hero. Arnold managed to remove the ‘I’ from icon and instead let the world share in his greatness… He was the king of our sport, and he always will be. Like the great (broadcaster) Vin Scully, when he called his last game Sunday night for the Dodgers: ‘Don’t be sad because it’s over. Smile because it happened.’ Today I hurt, just like you hurt. You don’t lose a friend of over 60 years and not feel an enormous loss. But like my wife always says, ‘The memories are the cushions of life.’ “
Other golfers in attendance included Nick Faldo, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, and Bubba Watson.
Since Palmer’s passing, many have tried to pay tribute to “The King” as best they can. Tuesday afternoon, HBO sent a memo out to media on how the Home Box Office will honor the late golfing legend. On October 9, HBO2 will re-air Back Nine At Cherry Hills: The Legend of the 1960 U.S. Open at 10:15-11:15 a.m. ET/PT. Originally airing in 2008, Back Nine At Cherry Hills: The Legend of the 1960 U.S. Open is described as follows.
“While the story reaches its climax on the final holes at Cherry Hills Country Club in suburban Denver, the path each of these sports icons took to this historic juncture is equally important. BACK NINE AT CHERRY HILLS: THE LEGENDS OF THE 1960 U.S. OPEN spans the early years of the three, all of whose lives were shaped by their relationships with their fathers. Ben Hogan’s Texas boyhood was tragic: His father committed suicide when Ben was nine years old, leaving him to struggle with his ‘demons’ through the Depression and war years, determined to make something of himself as a pro golfer. Arnold Palmer, the Pennsylvania blue-collar groundskeeper’s kid who constantly sought his father’s approval, was not allowed to mingle with the country club kids, but his strength and charisma brought him early success playing golf in post-war America. Jack Nicklaus, the exceptionally talented country club kid from Ohio, had a loving, friendly relationship with his pharmacist father during the prosperous years of the Eisenhower 1950s.”
Key figures interviewed in the special include Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ken Venturi and Dow Finsterwald, as well as former Sports Illustrated writer Dan Jenkins.
In the special, Jenkins recalls what happened on that fateful day.
“[It was] too big, too wildly exciting, too crazily suspenseful, too suffocatingly dramatic. What exactly happened? Oh, not much. Just a routine collision of three decades at one historical intersection. On that afternoon, in the span of just 18 holes, we witnessed the arrival of Nicklaus, the coronation of Palmer and the end of Hogan.”
Held from June 16-18, the 1960 U.S. Open was part of Palmer’s pursuit to a Grand Slam, though that would fall short a few weeks later with a one-stroke loss to Kal Negle at the British Open. This was the only U.S. Open that Palmer would win in his illustrious career, as the Pennsylvania native finished second three times in the next six years; the 1962 Open was won by that same Jack Nicklaus, a then-amateur who found a way to defeat Palmer.
For as good as modern day players like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIllroy, and Jordan Spieth are, Palmer and Nicklaus still remain the champs to many fans and experts. The two golfers actually remain the only two golfers to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with Palmer winning in 2004 and Nicklaus in 2005.
The best fact of the 1960 U.S. Open has to be that the winner’s share was $14,400; in the 2016 U.S. Open, the winner’s share was $1,800,000 as Dustin Johnson claimed that prize. Talk about inflation rates.
[Featured Image by George Freston/Getty Images]