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Two sports recently suffered heartbreaking losses. Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer passed away in a Pittsburgh hospital Sunday after being admitted for heart testing. Miami Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed early Sunday morning after a boat he and two friends were in crashed. Palmer was 87, and Fernandez was just 24. Palmer was the man who accomplished everything in his sport, and Fernandez was the one who could have done so if he had only had the time.
Arnold Palmer completely transformed how golf was viewed in the public eye. Previously, golf was known as an uneventful sport only played by wealthy members of country clubs. Palmer brought excitement and energy to the game and broadened golf’s appeal to the masses. He, Gary Player, and Jack Nicklaus formed “the Big Three” of golf in the 1960s and created worldwide interest in golf. “The King,” as he was known, won 62 PGA tournaments in his illustrious career, including four Masters wins, one U.S. Open victory, and two British Open triumphs. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in its inaugural 1974 class. In 1998, Arnold Palmer was awarded the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the sport. Palmer played in the Masters for 50 straight years until his final appearance in 2004. He was notorious for his aggressive and emotional style of play, which was uncommon before his time. Outside of his playing career, he founded The Golf Channel, built the first golf course in China, and designed over 200 courses all over the world. In 2004, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The drink Arnold Palmer, consisting of lemonade and iced tea, was popularized by its namesake after he carried it with him on the course. Arnold Palmer inspired many of the current generation’s golfers to begin playing, and his charm made him revered in the game. His tremendous impact in growing golf will forever be a part of his legacy.
If Arnold Palmer represented the pinnacle of success in sports, Jose Fernandez represented the treacherous journey to reach that peak. Fernandez reached the United States at age 15 on his fourth attempt to escape Cuba. He noticed that a passenger fell off the boat he was on, and he jumped in to save the fellow defector. The passenger turned out to be his own mother. He enrolled at Braulio Alonso High School in Tampa and led the school’s baseball team to two state championships in his three seasons. The Miami Marlins picked him with their first round selection in the 2011 MLB draft. Less than two years later, he debuted for the team. That season, he was awarded the National League Rookie of the Year honor and came in third place for the NL Cy Young award. Next year, he tore his UCL and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. He returned to the mound in July 2015, until another injury kept him out of the pitching rotation until that September. He bounced back this season and made his second All-Star game appearance. He leads the MLB with 12.5 strikeouts per 9 innings this year. His career ERA stands at 2.58, which surely would have landed him in the Hall of Fame if he had a long playing career. What is even more heartbreaking is that just five days before his untimely death, Fernandez announced that he and his girlfriend were expecting a child.
As the sports world mourns the legend and legend-to-be, let this be a reminder to live life like Palmer and Fernandez. Both displayed an enthusiasm and joy for their sports that every child once felt at their junior golf lessons or Little League games. Both had infectious smiles and injected their own personalities and quirks into their usually stoic sports. May both be remembered for their personal and athletic contributions to the world.