It has not been a good year for the legendary greats of the sports world. Having lost boxing’s greatest, Muhammad Ali, and hockey’s greatest, Gordie Howe, now we have lost golf legend Arnold Palmer. Arnold Palmer may have been the only athlete to rival Ali in popularity with the public outside of fans of his chosen sport. As well as his garnering the attention from heads of state and royalty alike. I can already here some out there saying wait a minute. You already wrote a post on golf’s all-time greatest player and chose Jack Nicklaus. You’re absolutely right. And I still stand by that choice. The record book clearly shows Nicklaus as the all-time greatest player in golf. But Arnold Palmer’s greatness goes far beyond his tremendous lifetime of accomplishments on the golf course. After all, fans and fellow players alike don’t call him “The King” for nothing. And like any good king, Arnold Palmer led his fellow players to a better way of life. His popularity and in demand presence inside and outside the ropes paved the way to bigger prize money and more world-wide exposure for everyone in the game. His arrival perfectly coinciding with the golden age of television was a mutually beneficial partnership. Arnold was perfectly at home in front of the camera, and the camera and its audience adored the ruggedly handsome swashbuckler who employed a go for broke, high risk, win at all costs attitude. And this king had an army. Men, women, and children of all ages enlisted in Arnie’s Army. The men wanted to be him and the women wanted to be with him. Legions of fans everywhere followed their king in to battle, their hearts rising and falling with his wins and loses, but always remaining loyal and keeping the faith. And Arnold always returned their love and loyalty two fold. He would always patiently remain after every round of golf until every fan got the autograph or photograph that they desired.And he made sure, and encouraged others,to take the time to make each autograph legible instead of merely scribbling carelessly like so many do. Bobby Clampett, a highly accomplished amateur and professional golfer in his own right, tells a great story that demonstrates this. As a twelve year old kid, he attended a tournament at Pebble Beach to watch Palmer play. After the event, having no ride home, he approached Arnold Palmer and said he needed a ride home. The superstar golfer looked down at this kid then put his arm around the boy’s shoulder and said, “Sure kid, no problem.” That was Arnold Palmer. A superstar and regular guy all at once, who never forgot where he came from and who put him there. Being loved by the camera and totally at ease in front of it, Arnold Palmer could have easily transitioned into the movies as other athletes have done. But Arnold’s second love after golf became aviation. His interest and fascination led to the purchase of his own aircraft and eventually to his pilot’s license. While still playing golf at the highest level, he also achieved certification in numerous aircraft. One highly accomplished pilot said that if Palmer had concentrated on aviation instead of golf, he has no doubt Arnold would have been recognized as one of the greatest pilots in aviation history. And he used those piloting skills as an asset to his golf career and outside business interests. His charitable and philanthropic endeavors over his entire adult life were also legendary. He gave as good, if not much, much more than he got. With all the above being said, Arnold Palmer is easily, in my book, the greatest sports celebrity and sports personality of all-times. And while Jack Nicklaus remains the greatest, most decorated golfer of all-time, I believe Arnold Palmer is easily among the top ten, if not higher. And I would feel remiss if I didn’t highlight some of his accomplishments before closing this piece. Arnold Palmer achieved 92 pro wins world-wide during his career. He won 7 majors and 5 Senior majors. In fact, the Senior tour was mostly an afterthought in most golf fans’ minds until Arnold Palmer joined. He won the Vardon trophy, given for low score avg., 4 times. He was the first player to win the trifecta of the U.S. Amateur, U.s. Open, and U.S. Senior Open. He is still the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player with a record of 22-8-2, and having played on 6 winning Ryder Cup teams. He also won 2 Open Championships in 1961 and 1962. Before his first appearance in 1960, very few American golfers participated in the great event across the pond. Arnold Palmer’s accomplishments there made it a must attend event with American players. He along with Nicklaus and South African Gary Player made up the “Big Three,” a made for television series to show off their golf skills and competitive rivalry. He was awarded the SI Sportsman of the Year in 1960, the first golfer ever to receive the honor. He was the first golfer awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004, and the 2nd golfer awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2009. He was given the PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998, and was elected to the World Golf HOF in 1974. He also participated in an unprecedented 50 consecutive Masters tournaments from 1955 to 2004. He teamed up with rival Jack Nicklaus to form the PGA and was co-founder of the Golf Channel. So, for all of the above and so much more, Arnold Palmer was not only a legendary golfer but the greatest sports celebrity of all-time. In a final tribute, as the memorial service befitting of this king ended, his aircraft flew overhead before climbing until it was out of sight. All hail to the King! RIP Arnold Palmer.