The life of Arnold Palmer was celebrated at a ceremony today in Latrobe, the hometown of the golf legend who died on September 25th, aged 87.
His private funeral for family members was held last Thursday, but the family of the seven-time major winner wanted a public service to be held after the Ryder Cup.
Members of the winning American team attended, including Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, at St. Vincent College in Pennsylvania, along with leaders from the PGA Tour and European Tour and other tours from around the world.
Private jets descended on Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in the hours leading up to the service.
A tearful Jack Nicklaus, longtime friend and chief rival in the 1960s, led the tributes during the three-hour service.
The 18-time major champion, said: “I hurt like you hurt. You don’t lose a friend of 60 years and don’t feel an enormous loss.
“I am honoured and humbled to celebrate everything Arnold has meant to golf and the country. This is not one of the easiest speeches.
“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.
“Golf gave so much to Arnold but he gave back so much more. He appealed to everyone. He was the king of our sport, and he always will be.”
Country singer Vince Gill paid his own tribute with an acoustic performance and former leading women’s golfer Annika Sorenstam spoke of her memories of a man who did so much great work off the course as he had on it.
Peter Dawson, long-serving former chief executive of the Royal & Ancient, said: “Arnold was golf’s greatest ambassador, both at home and abroad.”
“He mixed with heads of state, with presidents, with prime ministers, but he never lost his common touch. He could open doors that were firmly closed to others. But he was more than an ambassador – he was the king, and always will be.”
Former LPGA commissioner and close friend Charlie Mechem opened the tributes and said: “We’re all heartbroken by the passing of our dear friend.”
“But sadness and grief is not the tone Arnold or his family would want for this day. I want you to smile because he smiled about 95 percent of the time. When he missed a putt maybe, whatever, gotta be happy.”
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem also paid his respects and said: “When we talk about Arnold’s legacy I don’t believe it’s a legacy of the past. It’s a living legacy that he has left us.”
Palmer won 62 titles on the PGA Tour, including four Masters titles, two wins at The Open and one US Open championship.
Widely regarded as golf’s first superstar, Palmer, nicknamed ‘The King’, attracted legions of fans known as “Arnie’s Army” at his peak with his swashbuckling style of play.