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Nicklaus close to tears as he pays tribute to ‘The King’ Palmer

A tearful Jack Nicklaus led the tributes to Arnold Palmer on Tuesday as the golfing world gathered to bid farewell to the pioneer who died last month aged 87.

Nicklaus close to tears as he pays tribute to ‘The King’ Palmer
© Phil Noble / Reuters REUTERS

Nicklaus celebrates life of great friend, Palmer

A tearful Jack Nicklaus led the tributes to Arnold Palmer on Tuesday as the golfing world gathered at a memorial service to bid farewell to the pioneer who died last month aged 87.

A who's who of golf descended on the Saint Vincent Basilica in Palmer's Pennsylvania hometown of Latrobe at a service to celebrate the life of the man known to millions simply as The King. Nicklaus was among friends and family who addressed the congregation during a three-hour service, sharing his own memories of a friendship which went back to the late 1950s.

Ricky Fowler, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson brought the Ryder Cup to Arnold Palmer's memorial service at Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Palmer "epitomised charisma"

The 76-year-old 18-time major winner choked back tears during an emotional tribute, describing Palmer as a golfer who epitomised charisma. “He was an everyday man, everyone's hero. Arnold managed to remove the 'I' from icon and instead let the world share in his greatness. Golf gave so much to Arnold but he gave back so much more. He appealed to everyone. He was the king of our sport, and he always will be”, he said

Among those in the audience were some of the biggest names of golf past and present - from Palmer’s contemporaries such as Lee Trevino through to Tom Watson, Nick Faldo and Ernie Els to the current crop of stars.

Arnie's army

Palmer's close friend Charlie Mechem opened the tributes to the golf legend, whose worldwide legion of followers was affectionately known as 'Arnie's Army.' “This is the elite battalion of Arnie's Army, as it should be”, Mechem said.

US Ryder Cup stars Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson were also among the crowd. Fowler and Watson arrived clutching the Ryder Cup, which the USA wrested back from Europe last weekend after three consecutive defeats.

Living legacy

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem admitted he had found it hard to put his sadness at Palmer's passing to one side. “I got the same instructions, which were to make this an uplifting celebration, but I can tell you it's really, really hard to do that because we come here with heavy hearts. When we talk about Arnold's legacy I don't believe it's a legacy of the past. It's a living legacy that he has left us”, he said.

“Arnie's Army was global and affection for him was international. He was simply adored by millions. He could open doors that were firmly closed to others. But he was more than an ambassador - he was the king, and always will be”, added former chief executive of the Royal & Ancient Peter Dawson.