LOS ANGELES -- Golfer Arnold Palmer, whose skill and swashbuckling style made him one of the biggest stars in the sport and helped him became a beloved figure to the general public, died Sunday. He was 87.
The United States Golf Association tweeted the news on Sunday, after Golf Digest first reported Palmer's death. His longtime assistant told the Washington Post that Palmer died at a Pittsburgh hospital ahead of a planned heart surgery.
"We are deeply saddened by the death of Arnold Palmer, golf's greatest ambassador, at age 87," wrote the USGA.
A talented athlete who garnered generations of fans, becoming a star just as TV was able to document it, Palmer remained involved in the golf world up until his death. Along with winning seven majors and playing the Masters for 50 consecutive years, Palmer also co-founded the Golf Channel, the first cable network devoted a single sport.
Palmer was notably the first client of Mark McCormack's sports management firm IMG. The Latrobe, Pa., native remains regarded as one of the greatest athletes in professional golf history.
Between 1958 and 1962 alone, Palmer took the Masters four times, the British Open twice and the U.S. Open once. He also racked up 62 wins on the PGA tour.
Though he never won the PGA Championship, he finished as runner-up three times. All in all, the Wake Forest alum nabbed 95 professional golf titles over his long career, and was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
A friend to fellow athletes and presidents alike, he received a Congressional Gold Medal in 2009, after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 from President George W. Bush. He appeared at the Masters for his 50th time, his last, in 2004, and retired from professional golf two years later.
Aside from his athlete prowess, Palmer, with his charm and style, became a businessman and million-dollar brand name. Many will remember him for the eponymous drink, a mixture of tea and lemonade.
Palmer is survived by two daughters, as well as a grandson, Sam Saunders, who plays on the PGA tour.