Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87 in Latrobe, Pa.  (Getty Images) With his good looks, swagger and style, Arnold Palmer (shown here with Frank Sinatra at a 1972 charity outing in Palm Springs, Calif.) was certainly the most charismatic golfer of any era. (Courtesy of Golf Channel) The tee markers at Latrobe Country Club are in the shape of the iconic Arnold Palmer umbrella. (Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor )

Farewell to The King: Arnold Palmer dies at age 87

We golfers have lost our King, the one and only Arnold Palmer, who passed away Sunday at the age of 87.

Growing up in Latrobe, Pa. as the son of a greenskeeper and golf pro, he was one the "Big Three" with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Palmer wasn't the greatest golfer of all time, but like so many have already said, maybe the most important golfer of all time. With his good looks, swagger and brash style, he was certainly the most charismatic.

Followed by his fans, known as Arnie's Army, he loved them as much as they loved him. And every golfer can relate to his self-taught swing, ferocious will to win, immense contributions to charity and unending energy.

He and his company designed golf courses around the world, and he even had his own golf equipment company for a few years. He flew his own plane to tournaments and encouraged American golfers to make the trip across the pond. He's largely responsible for the Golf Channel and of course, Bay Hill and the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill on the PGA Tour.

Of course, he may have left even a greater legacy in Orlando than Bay Hill with Arnold Palmer's Children's Hospital and Winnie Palmer Hospital for women and babies.

He came along in golf just as TV did, and his wins at the 1958 and 1960 Masters (his first two of four at Augusta National) catapulted the first major of the year to unprecedented popularity. Certainly, his success at the Open Championship (he won in 1961 and 1962) helped open up Scotland and Ireland as bucket-list destinations for American golfers.

I met Mr. Palmer several times. He inspired me to get my pilot's license in 1992. Flying myself to golf courses instead of driving to them seemed like the ultimate combination of two things I loved, just as Palmer did.

It seems every time I played or stayed at Bay Hill, he was there, either having breakfast or on the range. Golfers and golf fans would approach him there, and he never seemed to mind. That's what I knew about him; that he loved his fans to the end, about as much as they loved him.

I think I'll drink an Arnold Palmer today with lunch.

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Sep 26, 2016

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Mike Bailey

Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.