The King was born 87 years ago. There’s no record what Arnold Palmer weighed at birth, but there is no doubt he became one of America’s true heavyweight sports figures.
To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, Palmer truly walked (and golfed) with Presidents and Kings but didn’t lose the common touch. Here are 87 reasons to celebrate Arnie’s life:
1. He made hitching up your pants cool.
2. He brought big-time golf to Orlando, turning the sleepy Florida Citrus Open into the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
3. He signed a zillion autographs – all of them legibly.
4. He beat prostate cancer.
5. He served three years in the U.S. Coast Guard.
6. The Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children is ranked among “Best Children’s Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.
7. JFK sent him film of his golf swing to critique.
8. In 49 years, he made $1,784,497 on the PGA Tour.
9. In 2014, he made $42 million in endorsements and other income, according to Forbes.
10. He went to the same high school as Fred Rogers from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
11. He rallied from seven shots behind on the final day to win the 1960 U.S. Open.
12. He designed the first golf course built in China.
13. You can order an “Arnold Palmer” and restaurants worldwide will pour you a half-iced tea, half-lemonade.
14. He’s still a member of the Latrobe (Pa.) Elks club.
15. He broke100 for a round of golf when he was 7.
16. When Palmer turned 37, Dwight D. Eisenhower flew to Latrobe to deliver a surprise birthday greeting.
17. He met his first wife, Winnie, on a Tuesday and asked her to marry him four days later.
18. They were married 45 years until her death in 1999.
19. He played in 50 Masters.
20. He became a pilot to help overcome his fear of flying.
21. He rode into a 2013 Wake Forest football game on the back of a motorcycle.
22. He was the last golfer to look debonair with a cigarette dangling from his lips.
23. He has a Congressional Gold Medal.
24. He has a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
25. He’s the only sports figure to have both.
26. His grandkids called him “Dumpy.”
27. He has 62 PGA Tour wins.
28. When arch villain Goldfinger was cheating while playing golf against James Bond in the 1964 film, Sean Connery’s caddie said, “If that’s his original ball, I’m Arnold Palmer.”
29. He gave Kate Upton her first golf lesson.
30. He personally taught hundreds of pro golfers how to properly comport themselves.
31. His father was a lowly club pro, so Arnie wasn’t allowed to swim in the club pool.
32. He swam in the creek that supplied the pool water and joked that he urinated in it.
33. He hung out with Frank Sinatra.
34. He really did drive that tractor seen in the Pennzoil commercials.
35. He helped start the Golf Channel.
36. He was honorary national chairman of the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation for 20 years.
37. He made eye contact with fans.
38. The Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies delivered 13,800 newborns in 2014.
39. Richard Nixon asked his advice on how to end the Vietnam War.
40. He was Associated Press Athlete of the Decade for 1960s.
41. He won seven majors.
42. Kirk Douglas was asked of all his famous acquaintances, who had the most personal magnetism? His answer: Arnie.
43. He loves bologna.
44. He worked as a paint salesman after getting out of the Coast Guard.
45. He has 13 streets named after him.
46. He doesn’t expect people to call him “Mr. Palmer.”
47. He addressed Congress in 1990 on the 100th anniversary of Eisenhower’s birth.
48. He shot 71 in his first high-school golf match.
49. He has his own winery.
50. He has refused any marketing overtures to make an Arnold Palmer wine comprised of half-Chardonnay and half-Cabernet Sauvignon.
51. It took him 13 years to become the first golfer to win $1 million in career earnings.
52. Matt Every, winner of this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, got a first-place check for $1,134,000.
53. In 1976, he set a round-the-world speed record in a Learjet that still stands – 57 hours, 25 minutes, 42 seconds.
54. Only two rooms in the Pennsylvania house he grew up in had heat.
55. He had a hole-in-one five years ago.
56. He was confident enough to wear pink before it was fashionable.
57. The Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History is home to the world’s leading collection of golf artifacts.
58. He quit the Champions Tour when he felt he was playing like a golf artifact.
59. He expects men to take off their hats when they go indoors.
60. He helped found a nature preserve named after his first wife.
61. Gerald Ford’s first act after leaving the presidency was playing a round of golf with Palmer.
62. The Latrobe airport is named after him.
63. He bought the golf course that wouldn’t allow him to go swimming as a kid.
64. He came up with his simple yet iconic multicolored umbrella logo.
65. He often cries during the national anthem.
66. After a lifetime of signing autographs for free, he finally charged for his signature during the 1994 Bay Hill tournament when his grandchildren told him business was slow at their lemonade stand. Palmer agreed to sign for anyone who’d buy a $1.50 glass. The kids made a quick $50 before running out of lemonade.
67. The Arnold Palmer Medical Center is the largest facility in the U.S. dedicated to children and women.
68. When he was 17, he had a photo taken with Hollywood starlet Esther Williams.
69. His around-the-world record flight would have finished sooner, but he stopped to refuel in Sri Lanka and rode an elephant.
70. For years, the trophy at his Orlando tournament was a sword.
71. His would-be father-in-law boycotted the wedding because he doubted Palmer could make enough to support a family.
72. He designed more than 300 golf courses around the world.
73. He came up with the concept of modern Grand Slam in 1960.
74. He flew a Boeing 747 before they were in commercial service.
75. The golfing great Arnold Palmer appeared in the animated “The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show” in 1971.
76. He’s an honorary starter at the Masters.
77. There’s an Arnold Palmer statue at Wake Forest.
78. Nike’s “LeBronold Palmer” sneakers are named for him and LeBron James.
79. He led the campaign to prevent golf courses from being built in Florida’s state parks.
80. After first seeing Palmer’s jerky swing, Gene Sarazen said Palmer wouldn’t amount to much of a golfer.
81. He can still be spotted walking his dog at Bay Hill.
82. His dog’s name is Mulligan.
83. His review of Bill Clinton’s golf game: “He can hit a long way, he just doesn’t have a ZIP code.”
84. In 2010, Esquire named him one of “The 75 Best Dressed Men of All Time.”
85. He smoked his last cigarette on Dec. 23, 1973.
86. He had his very own Army.
87. He was met in heaven for his last game.