For the first time in 62 years, the Masters Tournament will be played without the physical presence of Arnold Palmer. However, his presence no doubt will be felt in spirit when the 81st Masters gets underway April 3. In a statement released upon Palmer’s death on September 25, 2016, Billy Payne, Augusta National Golf Club and Masters Tournament chairman, summed up what the legendary golfer meant –and always will mean – to the tournament and to Augusta National.
“The very essence of the Masters is twofold: to summon nothing less than greatness from the men who annually compete for the title of Masters champion, and to inspire people from all over the world through the magnificence of the game of golf. History at Augusta National will show that Arnold answered the calling for Masters greatness throughout his career, winning the green jacket in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964,” Payne said. “The inspiration we drew from Arnold Palmer, however, is what we celebrate now and forever. Arnold’s bold and daring approach to the game, combined with his citizenship, warmth, humor, humility and grace, were truly the signature of the man that we came to know, and will fondly remember, as The King. His presence at Augusta National will be sorely missed, but his impact on the Masters remains immeasurable – and it will never wane.”
Highlights from Palmer’s Masters career include:
1955 – Palmer receives an invitation to his first Masters after winning the 1954 U.S. Amateur. He finishes T10 after shooting 69 in the final round – the low score of the day – and earns $696. (Although he turns professional later in 1954, his invitation to the Masters as the U.S. Amateur champion stands under the rules at the time.)
1958 – At age 28, Palmer wins his first of four Masters victories. He eagles the 13th hole in his final round, and a rules discussion determines that he scores a par instead of a double bogey on No. 12. Sportswriter Herbert Warren Wind also coins the term “Amen Corner” to describe the holes where critical action occurs in the final round.
1959 – Troops from nearby Camp Gordon join the gallery following the charismatic defending champion, and a soldier who was working one of the back-nine scoreboards as a volunteer refers to the throng as “Arnie’s Army.”
1960 – Palmer earns his second green jacket after he birdies the final two holes on Sunday to win the tournament by a stroke. He becomes the second player to win the Masters in wire-to-wire fashion.
1962 – Palmer captures his third Masters title by shooting 68 in the tournament’s first three-way playoff to outlast defending champion Gary Player and Dow Finsterwald. He shoots 31 on the back nine of the Monday 18-hole playoff to overtake his competitors in a come-from-behind victory.
1995 – The tournament celebrates Arnold Palmer Day on April 4 with the dedication of a plaque commemorating Palmer’s Masters history. The plaque is affixed to a drinking fountain near the tee on the 16th hole.
2004 – At age 74, Palmer makes his 50th consecutive and last start at the Masters.
2007 – Palmer debuts as an honorary starter at age 77, reviving an opening ceremony and Masters tradition that has lapsed since 2003.
2015 – At age 85, Palmer hits his final tee shot as an honorary starter.
2016 – From a seat on the first tee, Palmer watches Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, who joined him as honorary starters in 2010 and 2012, respectively, hit their ceremonial drives to open the tournament. “I think that everybody was happy to see Arnold out on the tee,” Nicklaus says. “I think that Arnold was happy to be on the tee.”
By Betsy Gilliland