The news of golf legend Arnold Palmer’s recent passing was difficult for many, but it was especially sad for those of us who reside in the greater Orlando area. After all, Central Florida was his second home, and he was the driving force behind our city’s premier PGA Tour event at Bay Hill. Additionally, he lent a great deal of time and money to the region’s medical facility that bears his name – Arnold Palmer Hospital – which features an emergency/trauma department dedicated solely to pediatric patients.
“Arnie” captured seven major championships and accumulated 62 total PGA Tour wins (and countless fans), but many people don’t know that, in addition to being an all-time great golfer, Mr. Palmer was also a big player in the car business. The folks at Automotive News recently published this excellent article that chronicles his passion and business acumen when it comes to all things automotive.
Arnold Palmer: Brand Ambassador
By the mid-1960s, he was so popular that the name “Arnold Palmer” essentially became a brand of its own. In 1967, he began his career in automotive as a pitchman for the Ford Motor Company, starring in commercials for the Mercury Cougar and Monterey.
Of course, we also can’t forget his partnership with Hertz Rent-a-Car, which included a handful of unforgettable TV commercials featuring Palmer and O.J. Simpson. In 2014, Hertz and Palmer celebrated 30 years of affiliation.
Arnold Palmer: Car Dealer
He first became a dealership owner in 1974 when he and a couple partners bought a Cadillac dealership in the Charlotte area, renaming it Arnold Palmer Cadillac. (During this time, he also began doing commercials for the brand, and wore a Cadillac patch on his shirts when he competed.) Seven years later, he opened a Buick-Cadillac dealership, called Arnold Palmer Motors, in his hometown of Latrobe, PA. Later, he added General Motors stores in California and Kentucky … and Ford locations in South Carolina and Latrobe. At the time of his death, only Arnold Palmer Motors was still under the golf legend’s ownership.
There’s no question that Arnold Palmer’s charisma and genuineness served him well during his lifetime, both on and off the golf course. He leaves behind a legacy that very few people – athletes or otherwise – will ever be able to match.
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