Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Coast Guard Veteran Arnold Palmer. Born in Youngstown, Pennsylvania, Arnold started playing golf at the age of 3.
Arnold joined the Coast Guard at a crossroads in his life. Already well regarded as an amateur golfer at Wake Forest University, a personal tragedy led him to rethink his priorities.
“I was at Wake Forest for three and a half years and my roommate got killed in an automobile accident and I was pretty distraught over that and decided that I needed to get away,” he recalled in an interview with U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary historian Richard A. Stephenson. “I joined the Coast Guard.”
Following recruit training at Cape May, Arnold’s first assignment was to stay at the training center as a physical fitness and self-defense instructor. About a year later he was transferred to Cleveland, Ohio, where he was a yeoman for the commander of the 9th Coast Guard District Auxiliary (now the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve) and ultimately for Rear Adm. Roy L. Raney, 9th Coast Guard District commander.
Arnold enjoyed the discipline of military life but particularly enjoyed having many of his weekends off to continue to compete in golf tournaments with the blessing of Raney, who received regular golf lessons from Arnold while they served together.
Raney was so taken with Arnold that he recommended the young man pursue a career as a Coast Guard officer. Ultimately, Arnold decided to pursue a career in professional golf and got out of the Coast Guard in 1953.
He returned to Wake Forest and in 1954 he won the U.S. Amateur Championship. He went on to win seven major championships among his 95 tournament victories — including four Masters. He completed his last Masters in 1984 — the 50th straight year he’d qualified for the game’s marquee tournament. He was the first golfer to earn over one million dollars in prize tournament money.
Arnold passed away Sunday at age 87. We honor his service.