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The golf world lost a giant on Sunday when Arnold Palmer passed away. He was 87.
Palmer won seven major championships over the course of his career, the most famous of which came at the U.S. Open in 1960 when he stormed back from six shots down on Sunday to beat a young Jack Nicklaus.
Nicklaus and Palmer were rivals, to be sure, but they were also close friends who helped grow golf’s popularity immensely.
On Sunday night, after news of Palmer’s death had broke, Nicklaus wrote a moving tribute to Palmer.
“We were great competitors, who loved competing against each other, but we were always great friends along the way,” Nicklaus wrote. “Arnold always had my back, and I had his. We were always there for each other. That never changed.”
He continued: “He was the king of our sport and always will be.”
Here’s Nicklaus’ full tribute, from his Facebook page (transcription courtesy of FTW):
“I just got the news at about 8:45 that Arnold had passed. I was shocked to hear that we lost a great friend-and that golf lost a great friend.
At this point I don’t know what happened, and I suppose it is not important what happened. What is important is that we just lost one of the incredible people in the game of golf and in all of sports. My friend-many people’s friend-just wore out. I know he was in Pittsburgh trying to find out how to make himself better. That’s what Arnold has always tried to do. He has always been a fighter and he never gave up on anything. He didn’t give up even now. Maybe his body did, but I know Arnold’s will and spirit did not.
I wish I had another chance to talk to him, but I am so glad we talked a couple weeks ago on his birthday (Sept. 10), when he sounded great. So Barbara and I are just in shock and incredibly saddened. Our hearts, thoughts, prayers and sympathies go out to Kit, his kids, grand-kids, great grandchildren, and his entire loving family.
He was one of my best friends, closest friends, and he was for a long, long time. I will miss him greatly.
Arnold transcended the game of golf. He was more than a golfer or even great golfer. He was an icon. He was a legend. Arnold was someone who was a pioneer in his sport. He took the game from one level to a higher level, virtually by himself. Along the way, he had millions of adoring fans-Barbara and I among them. We were great competitors, who loved competing against each other, but we were always great friends along the way. Arnold always had my back, and I had his. We were always there for each other. That never changed.
He was the king of our sport and always will be.”