So much has been written and documented about Arnold Palmer that even casual sports fans feel like they know him. In addition to being one of the most well-known athletes of his era – he posted 62 PGA Tour wins and seven major championships, including the 1960 U.S. Open title at Cherry Hills Country Club in suburban Denver – Palmer attracted mass appeal thanks to his marketability.
Palmer the pitchman – he touted motor oil from his father’s iconic tractor in his hometown of Latrobe, Pa., rental cars and prescription medicine – intertwined with Palmer the golfer and course designer.
But even with that celebrity status, there are still aspects about “The King,” as many called him, that didn’t always generate headlines. In honor of the PGA Tour’s annual playing of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at his beloved Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Fla., here are three things that people might not know about Palmer:
The General’s Friend
It’s no secret that former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower – or “Ike” as he was known to many – loved the game of golf. During his presidency, he was given a membership at Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club, and, with the assistance of the USGA Green Section, he had a 3,000-square-foot putting green installed on the South Lawn of the White House.
Palmer was still a fledgling amateur when Eisenhower won the 1952 presidential election, but two years into his second term, the two were embarking on what would become a lifelong friendship until the World War II general died in 1969. They first met at a 1958 function at Laurel Valley Country Club in Ligonier, Pa., not far from Palmer’s hometown of Latrobe, and first played golf shortly after Palmer won the 1960 Masters.