The world of athletics has lost an important icon: Arnold Palmer, one of golf’s greatest players, passed away on Sunday, September 25, at the age of 87. Born on September 10, 1929, Palmer is renowned for his humble, approachable spirit and his love for the game of golf. Over the course of his dynamic career, Palmer has been recognized many times for his work in transforming golf from a rich man’s game into a pastime for the masses.
What’s lesser known about Palmer is his business side. Palmer, beyond being a golf legend and the namesake for the famous half-lemonade, half-iced tea beverage that he so adored, was a businessman in his own right. Though his interests spanned a range of sectors, cars proved one of his most conspicuous passions. The automotive industry is one where we see many people become involved in due to the great investment opportunity, and let’s be honest; most people think it is great thing to have ownership in one of the most important and iconic industries in America.
A few years after forming Arnold Palmer Enterprises, Inc., in 1961, Palmer began starring in automotive TV commercials, performing as official spokesman for the Ford Mercury Cougar. Later, he modeled the Ford Monterey and the flashy Cadillac El Dorado for Americans nationwide to admire. And in 1974, Palmer purchased his first car dealership, Arnold Palmer Cadillac in Charlotte, North Carolina.
By 1975, Palmer had created his own burgeoning brand – which included custom add-ons, like the Arnold Palmer Signature trim, to the Cadillac models of the moment. Palmer joined Team Cadillac, broadcasting the Cadillac logo on his clothing during tournaments to endorse the brand. In a time when sponsored athletes were few and far between, Palmer embraced Cadillac’s support. The gesture was a starting point for Palmer’s long, illustrious, and varied career – one that extended far beyond the golf course to encompass corporate marketing and broad investing.
By 1981, Palmer had opened another dealership, a Buick-Cadillac store called Arnold Palmer Motors, in his small Pennsylvania hometown. Around the same time, he began working with the Hertz rental car agency, starring in television commercials and print and radio advertisements. In 2014, Hertz celebrated its thirty-year partnership with Palmer, donating $30,000 to the children’s hospital in Orlando that bears Palmer’s name.
Through the eighties and early nineties, Palmer opened General Motors dealerships all over the United States, from South Carolina to California. “He really loved the industry,” says Ron Paluzzi, general manager at Arnold Palmer Motors in Latrobe. And when people got talking about cars around Palmer, Paluzzi recalls, “He would beam.”
NARFA is proud to recognize Arnold Palmer’s contributions to athletics – and to cars. For over six decades, Palmer graced the golfing world with his prowess, inspiring millions to take to the course themselves. Yet Palmer also brought his passion and charisma to the automotive industry, and NARFA celebrates Palmer’s important and enduring contribution to the world of cars – and to the automotive community at large.
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We’re grateful to our friends at Automotive News for inspiring us to create this post!