Arnold Palmer dies at 87: Colin Montgomerie thanks golfing great for career

Arnold Palmer with the Claret Jug after his Open win at Troon
Arnold Palmer won the Open twice, once in Scotland

Colin Montgomerie has led the tributes to Arnold Palmer, who has died aged 87, saying he owes a debt to the American for his own success in golf.

The Scot was speaking after he won his latest tournament on the Seniors tour, the China Championship in Canada.

"I am obviously very happy with the victory, but it's a very sad day," said Montgomerie. "A great loss to golf.

"He and manager Mark McCormack took the marketing world by storm and produced the PGA Tour - and the Champions Tour."

Palmer's links with Scotland were long-standing, stretching from before his Open win in Ayrshire in 1962 to helping design the Palmer Tribute course at Castle Stuart, near Inverness, which is about to begin construction.

"I remember my father being the first to congratulate Arnold Palmer when he won the Open at our club at Troon," said 53-year-old Montgomerie.

"And, from then on, it appeared to be a marketing dream - him and Mark McCormack.

"Arnold Palmer became a worldwide figure and he was as popular and legendary in Britain and Europe and other parts of the world as he was here in the States."

Crowd invaded from Troon beach

Arnold Palmer plays at St Andrews
"Arnie's Army" was the name given to the fans who followed Palmer in large numbers

Montgomerie, who won a record eight European Tour Order of Merit titles, beat American Scott McCarron in a play-off to win his latest title in British Columbia.

"Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus went out there and played together on this tour, but mainly Arnold Palmer because he was 10 years older than Jack, and we have a lot to thank him for," he said.

Montgomerie's father, James, recalled Palmer with fondness as "a lovely man and a gentleman".

"I always remember coming up the last hole - I was stewarding for the club at the time - and trying to keep the crowds back and the atmosphere was electric," he said of that 1962 win.

"The crowds were immense. It was the last Open that was held here where they had no stands at all and the crowds invaded the course from the beach, so it was quite dramatic."

Deserved king of golf accolade

BBC presenters David Coleman and Peter Alliss with Arnold Palmer
Arnold Palmer (right) brought golf to a TV audience and was a regular on the BBC

Former golf broadcaster and writer Renton Laidlaw was also there that day and said modern golfers have much to thank Palmer for.

"I remember at Troon when he won, it was like the Pied Piper," he told BBC Scotland.

"In those days, the crowds could come on to the course and he would walk down the fairway leading this band of people and it meant that, in future, the barriers went up and you weren't able to walk on the course any more.

"He loved Scotland and he loved this place here at St Andrews.

"He was the man who started it all and popularised the game with his flamboyant and aggressive style.

"He grew the game around the world and people became aware of it like never before.

"He was a legend. He was called the king of golf and he deserved to be king."

Castle Stuart part of massive legacy

Arnold Palmer celebrates his honorary degree at St Andrews University
Arnold Palmer received an honorary degree at St Andrews University in 2010

Sportwriter Jim Black was too young to have seen Palmer in his prime but has his own fond memories of the American.

"At St Andrews when he walked up the 18th to end his Open career in the early 2000s and it was a very emotional moment," he said. "He himself shed a tear I think and most of us had a lump in our throat watching it.

"The whole atmosphere was incredible. Only someone of Palmer's standing and charisma could have got that reaction and it was one of these moments at St Andrews when the whole place erupted with emotion and appreciation.

"I met Arnold several times and the last time was at Turnberry at the Senior Open about 10 years ago.

"He came off the course, he was in his late 70s and was exhausted and we were standing, a group of us from the press waiting to speak with him, and he leaned on my shoulder and stayed there leaning on it for about five minutes.

"In all that time, I was desperately looking round for a photographer to get that picture - the one that, if I got it and sadly I didn't, would have had central place on my office wall."

Black thought the new course at Castle Stuart would be a "nice monument" when it is open.

"It is just sad he is not going to be around to see it," he added.

"He leaves a massive legacy in the game in terms of his achievements, his personality, what he did for the modern players."

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