Thursday

Arnie Is 80 - Birthday Wishes for a Golf Style Icon

Beyond being one of the greatest players in history, Arnold Palmer was the first star of golf's television age, and as such, his singular style will forever be associated with the game.

The style is there in photographs and footage from the 50s and 60s, when golf was just beginning to be broadcast nationally, and each year elements of it appear in the collections of contemporary golf designers.

With the twinkle in his eye and his devilish grin, Arnold Palmer could have come right out of central casting, but instead he came from a rather humble club in Latrobe, PA where his father was originally the greens keeper. That relatively modest background - combined with his good looks and demonstrative nature - made him perfect for televised golf where, unlike football or baseball, there wasn't a singular ball to follow.

In golf, the players had to provide the narratives... and the ultra-charismatic Mr. Palmer, with his affability and anything-is-possible back-story, gave the world a great one; one that went a long way towards bringing golf to a mainstream audience and made an invaluable contribution to the game's popularity.

It was on the golf course during the late 50s and early 60s that the Arnold Palmer style was established. It was a style that reflected casual elegance and a certain respect for the order of things. However, even in an era that embraced polite uniformity, Arnold Palmer's style was anything but stiff and formulaic. It was sexy... and in the golf world of the day, slightly subversive.

"Earthy and sexy and tan"
is how Sports Illustrated once described Mr. Palmer, and the cardigans and tapered trousers... the Brando-esque stance and hungry expression... are all part of that look. It's a look that reflects the emergence of golf as a popular sport in mid-century America. And it's a look that belongs to Arnie alone. Others will be influenced by it and some will try to imitate it, but only Arnold Palmer will ever own it.

"Mr. Palmer, on behalf of all of us here at Golf Girl's Diary - in other words, on behalf of me - I'd like to wish you a Happy... and stylish... 80th Birthday."


Photos: Top, USGA Museum Archive - Lower, Evening Standard/Getty Images