Arnold, Jack, Gary and Super-Mex; My Top Four!
In this day and age, I sometimes wonder if true heroes only exist in the military, police, fire companies, and the teaching profession. I will admit it; I am old-school and miss the heroes of 65-plus years ago when I was a kid.
Senior golfers will understand this immediately, but I wonder about the millennials and those coming behind them. Who will they relate to as gentlemen or heroes or heroines? Gone are days of TV heroes and role models, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Cheyenne, Mr. Rogers, Captain Kangaroo, Gene Autry and Sky King.
In sports, gone are the heroes like Robin Roberts, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Unitas, Brooks Robinson and Bart Starr to name a few. Manners and sportsmanship - on and off the field, course or floor - were the norm in my childhood, not the exception. The golfing world has had its share of controversy over the years, but there are four golfers whom I believe are the best of the best both on and off the course.
Gentlemen’s Hall of Fame
Arnold Palmer whose nickname is The King, arrived on the scene in 1955, and took the golf world by storm. A true gentleman on and off the course, Arnie became a superstar who not only made golf popular on TV, but also changed the image of golf from a wealthy sport to a sport for the middle class. The son of the head greenskeeper at Latrobe Country Club, he went on to amass 95 professional wins over his 50-year career; including four Master’s wins, one U.S. Open and one Open Championship. He was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
Jack Nicklaus also known at The Golden Bear, turned pro in 1962 and immediately won his first of four U.S. Open Championships. He finished his career with 18 major wins, still the most all-time and a record six Master’s championships. He was also inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 1974; the inaugural class.
Gary Player whose nickname was The Black Knight (he always wore black clothes on the course) was born in South Africa and became an international golf star. During his Hall of Fame career, he was dubbed the “international ambassador of golf worldwide.” His final stats include: three Master’s wins, three British Open wins, two PGA championships and one U.S. Open title. Along with Palmer and Nicklaus, he was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
Lee Trevino enjoyed his nickname Super Mex throughout his entire hall of fame career. Born in El Paso, Texas, he brought not only true golf skill to the game, but also a flare, personality and humor to the television audiences. In 1968, he won his first of two U.S. Open championships and finished his career with 89 tournament wins, including two PGA and two Open championships. He was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 1981.
Greg Norman, who was known as The Great White Shark, was from Australia. He had blond hair and charming smile, and brought charisma and international charm to the PGA, starting in 1975, until his last appearance in the Masters in 2009. Even though he never won the Masters, he did finish second in 1986, 1987 and 1996. The true highlight of his career was the two wins he had in the British Open in 1986 and 1993. He was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 2001.
19th Hole Trivia:
• Starting in the 1960s through today, Palmer, Nicklaus and Player were known as the “Big Three” of golf.
• From 1960 to 1963, Palmer won 29 PGA Tour events.
• Along with 18 major championships, Jack Nicklaus finished second nineteen times in other major tournaments.
• Gary Player once donated to charity his entire $25,000 prize money from his 1965 U.S. Open win.
• After Lee Trevino’s father deserted the family, he was raised by his grandfather, a poor Mexican gravedigger. Trevino never won the Masters.
• As a young boy growing up in Brisbane, Australia, Greg Norman wanted to be a professional surfer. His mother introduced him to golf and surfing went out with the tide.