So far, Palmer has earned $875 million — the third-largest amount of all
time among athletes, according to Forbes
magazine — from endorsements, licensing
agreements, public appearances and golf-course designs.
Palmer would have been a champion
in any era, because he was born with
immense athletic talent. But a string of vic-tories doesn’t automatically make someone
a winner in business. To become a star of
Palmer’s magnitude, one must be the right
person in the right place at the right time.
Talk about timing: Palmer stepped into
golf’s spotlight at the dawn of the televi-
sion age, in the 1950s, when a con;dent,
America saw the best of itself in him.
“He had a unique ability to drive televi-
sion ratings,” said Bob Williams of Burns
Entertainment & Sports Marketing, based
in Evanston, Ill. “He gave o; an aura that
people found compelling. His aggressive
play appealed to men, and his good looks
and charisma appealed to women.”
Television not only raised Palmer’s
public pro;le but also gave him competi-
tors who helped to reveal his character.
Just as Ali had Frazier and Larry Bird
had Magic Johnson, Palmer had Jack
Nicklaus and Gary Player. ;ey were
known as ;e Big ;ree, and their cel-
ebrated rivalry made for must-see TV.
Beginning in 1960, they won seven con-
secutive Masters championships.
“We knew we were good theater,” Palmer
once acknowledged, “and we enjoyed it at
least as much as the fans and reporters did.”
It was a template that launched second
careers for countless athletes.
But few of them have touched so many
so deeply. By remaining true to himself,
Palmer managed to harness the power of
fame without being consumed by it. People
bought what he was selling for a simple
reason: ;ey viewed him as a man of his
word. ;ey knew that he grew up poor
and that honor meant more to him than
money. If he said it, he meant it. He was the
Erik Larsen and
First tour win —
First of four
Signed on as Mark
McCormack’s first client