This Day In History: June 18

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On June 18, 1960, Arnold Palmer shoots a 65 to win the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver, Colorado. 

Palmer, from Latrobe, Pennsylvania was the son of a golf pro at the Latrobe Country Club in nearby Latrobe. His father taught him the game during the club’s off hours, as the young Palmer was not allowed to play when members were present. The training paid off: Palmer won the 1954 National Amateur while at Wake Forest College, then turned pro in 1955. As a professional, Palmer appealed to golf’s blue-collar fans, who identified with his working-class upbringing in Pennsylvania steel mill country. At the 1958 Masters, Palmer’s gallery included local Army cadets, and the phrase “Arnie’s Army” was coined to describe his legions of fans on and off the course. Palmer won the Masters that year, cementing his golf stardom in the burgeoning age of televised sports.

In 1960, Palmer won his second Masters, which gave him momentum going into the U.S. Open. After three rounds, however, Palmer was tied for 15th, seven shots behind Mike Souchak. Down but not out, he started the last round with an amazing four birdies in a row on his way to a record-tying 30 on the front nine. This put him in the race for the title alongside 47-year-old Ben Hogan, vying for his fifth U.S. Open title, and Hogan’s playing partner, Jack Nicklaus, a junior at Ohio State who shot a 282 for the tournament, an amateur record. Palmer parred the last four holes for a 35 on the back nine and a total score of 65 to win his first and only U.S. Open title.

Palmer was named PGA Player of the Year in 1960, and again in 1962. Over the course of his career, he won the Masters four times and the British Open twice. In 1968, Palmer became the first golfer to earn $1 million in a year. He remained one of the richest athletes in the world well into his 70s because of sound investments and a variety of profitable endorsements. 

Palmer died in September 2016, in Pennsylvania. He was 87 years old.