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President Obama leads in tributes for golf icon Palmer

Washington, Monday @Peoplesport11

Legends iconic US golfer Arnold Palmer battled and the players he inspired paid tribute to a beloved figure who spawned the modern big-money era with his charm and skill.

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, stars of a newer generation who admired “The King,” and Palmer’s “Big Three” rivals of the 1960s, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, were among those who mourned Palmer’s death Sunday at age 87.

But so was US President Barack Obama, who tweeted a photo of a lesson Palmer gave him in the Oval Office of the White House. “Here’s to The King who was as extraordinary on the links as he was generous to others. Thanks for the memories, Arnold,” Obama tweeted. Former President Bill Clinton called Palmer “golf’s everyman.”

“We loved him most as the underdog who never gave in and often came from behind to win,” Clinton said, while former President George W. Bush said “there has never been a sight quite like Arnold Palmer walking down the fairway toward the 18th green.”

Palmer’s everlasting legacy is found in the star players and rich events of today, such as Rory McIlroy and the $11.5 million he won Sunday for taking the Tour Championship and FedExCup playoff crown. “He has meant so much to golf worldwide,” four-time major winner McIlroy told The Golf Channel, which Palmer co-founded.

“Arnold wasn’t the most successful player ever but he was the player that brought the game to the masses. “If it wasn’t for Arnold Palmer, we wouldn’t be playing for these obscene amounts of money we play for every week.”

Palmer became the first major US sports celebrity endorsement star, the role made for him in the 1960s. He remained a popular pitchman into his 80s, his “Arnie’s Army,” fan following unmatched until Woods spawned Tiger-mania in 1997. “Thanks Arnold for your friendship, counsel and a lot of laughs,” Woods said in a Twitter posting.

“Your philanthropy and humility are part of your legend. It’s hard to imagine golf without you or anyone more important to the game than the King.” – The King now and forever – A shocked and saddened Nicklaus, who won a record 18 major titles, mourned one of his dearest friends. – AFP

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