Cape Town - South Africa’s Ernie Els has joined fellow golfers in lauding the legendary Arnold Palmer, who passed away at the age of 87 on Sunday.
Palmer, known as "The King," captured seven major tournaments during his illustrious career, taking the Masters four times (in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964), the British Open twice (in 1961 and 1962) and the US Open once (in 1960).
Els, who has won four major titles, wrote a heartfelt letter on his official website to honour Palmer.
Els wrote: “What a man, what a golfer. His contribution to golf is beyond measure and it’s no exaggeration to say that the modern game would not be as it is now without Arnold Palmer.
“Obviously his prime playing days were before my time, but we’ve seen the classic footage and the old black-and-white photographs in which Arnold’s film-star good looks, warmth and huge charisma just shone out. He attracted an almost frenzied following from galleries, the famous Arnie’s Army. Golf loved him and he loved it back in equal measure. He won majors, he won tournaments, and he lost tournaments, in his own unique, inimitable way. He was built like a middleweight boxer and he slashed and heaved at the ball with his huge hands and forearms; it was as though he was summoning every fibre in his mind and body to overpower a golf course. I remember John Jacobs saying that ‘the ground shook when Arnold hit a golf ball’. You can imagine!
“Arnold was not only a great, great golfer, but also a man of enormous heart and generosity; one of the game’s true gentlemen and someone who did an enormous amount of good work for others, not least through his charity ‘Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation’, which for more than 50 years has raised millions of dollars to improve the lives of people in need.
“He was also incredibly kind to young players, including me at the start of my career when he invited me to play in his tournament in 1993. We played the first two rounds together that year and it was an experience that I still cherish. For me and for many players it remained one of the highlights of the year to play his tournament and meet up with him at his beloved Bay Hill. For me to win the tournament twice, in 1998 and 2010, was of course the greatest thrill and honour. Honestly, I look at the photos today of him presenting me with the trophy and us laughing together beside the 18th green (pictured below) and it sends a shiver down the back of my neck.
“There will never be another golfer like Arnold Palmer and the game of golf will miss him so much. But we can all feel blessed to have shared a little slice of time on this earth with the great man and we should celebrate the fact that he lived the fullest life imaginable. His legacy, his record, his charitable spirit, will live on forever. RIP ‘the King’. I send my sincere condolences to his loving family at this sad time.”