Hero for the ages: the personality and character of Arnold Palmer

David Normoyle

Document Type Dissertation/Thesis


Yet what was the significance of Arnold Palmer? How could a golfer be the Athlete of the Decade for the 1960s? In an era of vast social change, how could a conservative, white, Anglo Saxon protestant from the stuffy upper crust world of golf be said to be representative of all that was happening in 1960s America? These questions, and many others about Arnold Palmer, have never really been given a formal answer. Arnold Palmer has had a handful of mostly laudatory biographies written about his life; he has been a media darling for over five decades, and received dozens of awards the world over for his contributions as a golfer, a humanitarian and all-around good guy. But what are the crucial elements in the Palmer persona that makes his legacy so lasting, his impact so tangible, his life so worthy of study? This paper attempts to tackle all of those questions predicated on the belief that Arnold Palmer is a wholly unique, or, at the very least, especially rare, individual who has been able to cut an essentially flawless public figure in decade after decade of public life. Palmer has received the popular, but not critical, attention that his life so richly deserves. This paper will attempt, in part, to present a critical study aimed at a hero of a sport that has been often overlooked and discounted by the academic world