Arnold Palmer was called "The King" because he was considered to be among the world's greatest and most popular golfers. From 1955 to 1973, he won 62 Professional Golfers Association Tour titles. He was born in 1929 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, a working-class steel mill town, and was taught in his early years to play golf by his father who was a greenskeeper at the Latrobe Country Club. He won a golf scholarship to attend Wake Forest College. After graduation, he played golf but had to sell paint to support himself. In 1954, at age 25, he won the U.S. Amateur in Detroit and decided to make golf his full-time job. While returning to the club house during a tournament, he noticed a good-looking woman named Winifred Walzer and asked her to go out with him. Three days later, he asked her to marry him. She accepted, they married and remained married for 45 years until she died from ovarian cancer at age 65 in 1999.
At age 26, he won his first professional tournament, the Canadian Open, and instantly became a national hero, appearing regularly on televised golf tournaments. At age 29, he won the 1958 Masters Golf Tournament and from 1960 to 1963, he won 29 PGA tournaments. He used his tournament money to invest in golf-related businesses and bought several golf clubs, was one of the founders of Golf Channel on television, owned a business that designed more than 300 golf courses, and had numerous contracts to endorse popular products. At the time of his death from heart failure at age 87, he was worth more than $875 million.
Health Issues: Prostate Cancer
Palmer was diagnosed as having prostate cancer in 1997 at age 67. From age 30 onward, he had seen the same physician every year for his annual physical exam and each time had a PSA blood test that is used to screen for prostate cancer. At age 64, the PSA test started to rise and for the next three years he received prostate biopsies that all came back negative for cancer. On the fourth year, his biopsy did show prostate cancer and he had his prostate with its cancer removed surgically. As far as I know, his prostate cancer never returned. More than 95 percent of prostate cancers will not kill, but a small number can progress rapidly to kill a man. The problem is that doctors do not have a definitive test to tell which prostate cancers are likely to spread rapidly, although they do have statistical signs such as how the cancer cells look under a microscope and whether they have spread. Today, most men over age 60 with prostate cancer should be treated with "watchful waiting" as the treatments cause a very high degree of pain, discomfort, impotence and incontinence.
Irregular Heartbeats, High Blood Pressure, Falling and Bone Fractures
In August, 2014, at age 85, Palmer had a pacemaker implanted to control irregular heartbeats that made him dizzy. For many years before that, he had been on medications to treat high blood pressure, a condition that increase a person's chances of developing heart muscle damage and irregular heartbeats. He had also gained a lot of weight in his belly which convinced me that his liver was also full of fat, the major cause of high blood sugar levels, diabetes and heart damage. He was also showing signs of unsteadiness on his feet, another consequence of irregular heartbeats.
In December 2014, Palmer dislocated his shoulder and fractured his collar bone when he tripped over his Labrador retriever, Mulligan, at his condominium in Orlando. He was obviously debilitated by his heart disease as each complete blockage or blood flow to the heart muscle results in scarring that replaces the damaged part of the heart muscle to eventually cause heart failure.
Tooth Infection, a Deep Clot in His Leg and Massive Intestinal Bleeding
In 2015, he had a severe tooth infection that could have been a warning that his immunity was not working properly. That same year, he developed a deep clot in a leg vein. Clots in the veins in the legs can spread through the bloodstream to go to the brain and lungs to cause a stroke or lung damage and severe shortness of breath, so he was treated with an anti-clotting drug called Xarelto. At this time he was terribly unsteady on his feet and people had to help him walk.
In August, 2016, he had an operation on his colon to stop a massive hemorrhage. Most likely the bleeding was caused by the anti-clotting medication he was taking to prevent further clotting anywhere in his body. At that time, Palmer was seen regularly on television wearing a pink sweater and saying, "Treatment with Xarelto was the right move for us."
He Died Too Young at Age 87
On Sept 22, 2016, Palmer was hospitalized for impending heart surgery. I could not find out what surgery was scheduled, but most likely it was for bypass surgery to increase blood flow to his heart. Before he could get the surgery, he died of heart failure on Sept 25, 2016.
Heart disease is the major killer of North American men today. Palmer was one of the world's greatest and most famous athletes, yet he died of heart failure, a disease that is caused largely by an unhealthy lifestyle. There may have been a genetic component as his father died at the age of 71 of a massive heart attack after playing 27 holes of golf.
• Cigarettes. He smoked one to two packs of cigarettes per day for about 15 years at the height of his professional career. He even made several television commercials endorsing cigarettes. However, in 1964, the Surgeon General's report encouraged him to start on the long fight to give up cigarettes and he urged the public to give up smoking because "Cigarette smoking has a negative effect on every organ in the body".
• Alcohol. He was a modest drinker of alcohol and he believed that it was safe to take one or two drinks a day. However, the recent literature shows that alcohol does not prevent heart attacks and there is no safe amount of alcohol. Even small amounts can increase risk for heart attacks and cancers.
• Excess Weight. If you look at his pictures over the years, you will see a very fit and slim athlete turn into a heavy person with a protruding belly. He talked about having a healthful diet with vegetables, fruits and nuts and avoiding fast foods, red meat and fried foods, but his excess weight indicates that he did not always follow his own advice. Having a big belly and small hips almost always means that a person has excess fat in his liver which can cause diabetes and, in turn, heart damage. A high rise in blood sugar after meals can damage every cell in your body. To prevent blood sugar levels from rising too high after meals, your pancreas releases insulin which lowers high blood sugar by driving sugar from your bloodstream into your liver. However, a liver full of fat does not accept the sugar and blood sugar levels remain high to cause plaques to form in arteries.
September 10, 1929 – September 25, 2016