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Tributes pour in for Arnold Palmer

September 27, 2016

Very few figures from the sports world have been mourned as great statesmen or global leaders but iconic golfer Arnold Palmer was accorded that status with U.S. President Barack Obama leading the tributes on Monday.

Obama described Palmer as "the American Dream come to life", following the death on Sunday of the seven-times major champion at the age 87 due to heart complications.

Palmer is widely regarded as the man most responsible for popularizing golf worldwide as television was coming of age in the early 1960s and every leading player in the modern era acknowledges the huge debt they owe the man known as 'The King'.

The focus of the golf world this week be on Hazeltine National for the Ryder Cup between hosts the United States and holders Europe and organizers have said there will be 'touches' of Palmer tributes during the biennial team competition.

Along with fellow golf greats and rivals Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, 'The King' Palmer formed the fabled 'Big Three' who collectively accumulated 34 major championship titles and more than 370 tournament victories around the world.

Not only did that trio set the gold standard for the manner and style of their play, but they also became ideal role models for the sport, both on and off the course.

American Nicklaus and South African Player issued touching and heartfelt tributes to a man they described as a life-long friend as well as a fierce competitor but it was Obama who highlighted Palmer's appeal to "an audience across the world".

In a statement issued by the White House, Obama spoke about Palmer's "homemade swing and homespun charm", and his on-course swagger "before we had a name for it".

Obama added: "From a humble start working at the local club in his beloved Latrobe, Pennsylvania, to superstardom as the face of golf around the globe, Arnold was the American Dream come to life.

"Arnold's freewheeling, fearless approach to the game inspired a generation of golfers and, for the first time on TV, enthralled an audience across the world. Sure, we liked that he won seven majors, but we loved that he went for it when he probably should have laid up.

"That spirit extended beyond the links where he gave freely of himself and poured everything he had into everything he did: from building hospitals to personally responding to countless letters from his fans. And he did it all with a grin."

In his native South Africa on Monday, Player woke up to the news of Palmer's death and tweeted: "Arnold Palmer simply transcended the game of golf. He was inspirational to so many and lived his life to the fullest.

"He had a slashing, dashing style accompanied with a knowing smile. He was loved by all even when they did not know him. He always made an effort, even when the odds were stacked against him. Our prayers go out to Kit and his entire loving family.

"Muff, I will raise my glass and toast your life tonight my friend, and hope to be reunited for another round together in time. Rest In Peace. I love you," said the 80-year-old Player, a nine-time major champion.

Nicklaus, 76, also spoke about how Palmer "transcended" golf.

"He was more than a golfer or even great golfer," said the 18-times major winner. "He was an icon. He was a legend. Arnold was someone who was a pioneer in his sport. He took the game from one level to a higher level, virtually by himself.

"We were great competitors, who loved competing against each other, but we were always great friends along the way ... we were always there for each other. That never changed. He was the king of our sport and always will be."

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