KETTERING, Ohio (AP) – Arnold Palmer, the king of seven Grand Slam events and five more as a senior, bid an emotional farewell Friday to his 50-year major championship career.

“It’s not fun when you play as poorly as I played,” the 75-year-old Palmer said after shooting an 81 to miss the cut by a wide margin at the U.S. Senior Open. “My tournaments are getting down to a very few. As far as trying to compete in major championships such as the Open and other tournaments, this is it. I’m through doing it. I’m not going to do it anymore.”

While fans shouted out to him, Palmer’s eyes glistened.

Palmer has not won a tournament since 1988 and has not been competitive in events for many years. His good friend and rival, Jack Nicklaus, ended his competitive career two weeks ago at the British Open at St. Andrew’s.

Palmer elected to play in the Senior Open because the sponsoring USGA and the tournament’s local organizers asked him to. He also wanted to be on hand when Nicklaus was honored on Wednesday night. Nicklaus then left for a fishing trip to Iceland, while Palmer remained behind to play in high heat and humidity.

“He went fishing and I went out and sweated,” Palmer said as a large crowd behind the 18th green roared with laughter.

Palmer’s first major tournament as a pro was the 1955 Masters. He tied for 10th then, and would go on to win at Augusta National in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964. He also won the U.S. Open in 1960, and British Opens in 1961 and 1962.

It was Palmer who helped lift a gentleman’s sport by embracing his fans with his dramatic charges. His battles with Nicklaus in the early 1960s helped lift the game to a new level.

Palmer said he was overwhelmed by saying goodbye.

Palmer was carried by a wave of emotion on his final hole. He had to punch out into the fairway, but then hit a knocked-down 6 iron that ended up 7 feet from the pin on the par-4 closing hole. He received a standing ovation that lasted two minutes from the thousands of people around the 18th green at NCR Country Club, up until he marked his ball.

Looking tired and drawn from playing in 80-degree temperatures, he missed the par putt but made the bogey putt.

The crowd roared again and he responded by waving, smiling and bowing.

One of his playing partners, Greg Reynolds, shook hands with Palmer and then began joining in the applause.

“It doesn’t get any better than that,” said Reynolds, an amateur from Grand Blanc, Mich. “This will go down as one of my greatest highlights in golf – not just making the cut, but getting the opportunity to play with him.”

Palmer said the fans had spurred him on throughout the past two days.

“It was a great thrill for me because of the fans,” he said. “They were so supportive.”

He added with a laugh, “My golf is so lousy I expected them all to go home at noon.”

Hundreds of fans stood near the clubhouse hoping to get a glimpse of him after he signed his scorecard.

Palmer said he intends to play in some very few events this year and next.

“Something like The First Tee program and some charities that I feel like I can help make successful,” Palmer said.

Reynolds, 58, said the crowds had grown over the two days he had played with Palmer, as had the response from the large galleries.

“Anybody my age that has grown up has seen what Arnold has done for golf,” Reynolds said. “You know, the fans all love him. I think we’ll all feel like we owe him a debt of gratitude just for what he has brought to the game of golf.”

AP-ES-07-29-05 1846EDT


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