Arnold Palmer, legendary golfer known as “The King,” is one of 14 highlighted Pittsburgh athletes as part of the Downtown Renown: Pittsburgh Sports Greats series showcasing stories as inspirational as they are amazing. Designed in collaboration with artist Gavin Benjamin, find all sports profiles windows currently on view in windows around the neighborhood.
It’s nearly impossible to separate Arnold Palmer from golf. His connection to the sport began with his father, Deacon, greenskeeper and golf professional at the Latrobe Country Club. When Arnold was 3 years old, Deacon put a cut-down golf club into his son’s hands and issued the instructions: “Get the right grip. Hit the ball hard. Go find the ball . . . and hit it hard again.” Arnold followed his father’s advice with great success.
In August 1954 Palmer battled through eight matches in six days to claim the Havemeyer Trophy at the U.S. Amateur championship. Winning that tournament became a pivotal event for Palmer, encouraging him to turn professional. It marked the start of a long and successful career both on the course and in the office where he revolutionized the business of golf.
Palmer’s first major victory came shortly after turning pro, when he won the 1955 Canadian Open. Spectacular play netted him the Master’s Tournament championship four times, in 1958, 1960, 1962, and 1964, the U.S. Open in 1960, and the British Open in 1961 and 1962. Palmer was at his best in the four-year stretch from 1960 to 1963 when he landed 29 of his titles and collected almost $400,000 in winnings.
In 1960, he astounded the professional circuit by winning the Bob Hope Desert Classic, his second Masters Tournament, and the U.S. Open. Arnold became the new golf hero, named PGA player of the year. His masterful performance earned him celebrity status and attracted followers known as Arnie’s Army. It also brought him marketing contracts with equipment and clothing manufacturers. In 1959, Arnold Palmer had set a new standard for professional athletes by hiring an agent, Mark McCormack. Over the years Palmer recorded 92 professional victories, including seven Majors, designed hundreds of golf courses worldwide on terrain ranging from desert to mountains, and provided management and golf instruction services.
His career marked the beginning of a new era in golf. Palmer’s energy and charisma drew fans to the game, both at tournaments and on television. He embodied the modern sports celebrity, crafting creative ways to market the sport. His hard-charging style of play thrilled viewers, his gracious demeanor cemented his bond with the public. Palmer’s fierce drive and determination to win, tempered by the ability to lose with grace, and an openness to connecting and interacting with the public created lifelong fans for both Palmer and the game. Others may have won more titles, but few eclipsed Palmer’s impact on the sport of golf.
Learn more about the history of golf in Pittsburgh from the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the Heinz History Center.
This spotlight is a part of the Downtown Renown: Pittsburgh Sports Greats series. Learn more about the project, and look for all 14 sports profile windows in Downtown!
Arnold Palmer • Bill Mazeroski • Charles “Chuck” Cooper • Dan McCoy • Franco Harris • Honus Wagner • Joe Greene • John Woodruff • Josh Gibson • Mario Lemieux • Roberto Clemente • Suzie McConnell-Serio • Swin Cash • Sidney Crosby
📍 View this Pittsburgh Sports Great window installation at the Pittsburgh Public Theater, 621 Penn Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh.