A Pennsylvania native son of a golf course superintendent, Palmer arrived in North Carolina at what was then Wake Forest College in 1947. From then to 1954, taking several years out for national service, he won two NCAA championships and the very first ACC championship. Today Wake Forest University recognizes Palmer’s contribution with an award in his name to the male student athlete of the year.
Throughout his life, Palmer has maintained strong ties to Wake Forest, serving on its board of trustees from 1983 to 1986, 1988 to 1991 and 1993 to 1997. He was a tri-chair of the university's Heritage and Promise Capital Campaign, which raised more than $170 million for the university in the early 1990s. He was elected a lifetime trustee of the university in 1997. Palmer endowed Wake Forest with its first golf scholarship in 1960 in honor of his close friend and teammate Marvin "Buddy" Worsham, who died in a car accident in 1950.
Palmer is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, PGA Hall of Fame, American Golf Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, among others. His 96 professional career titles include 62 on the PGA Tour and 10 on the Champions Tour. He won the Masters four times in 50 appearances, the British Open twice and the U.S. Open once. He finished second three times in the PGA Championship. He captained the victorious 1963 U.S. Ryder Cup team. His victories also include the first PGA Tour event held at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, putting the golf course, the tournament and the island on the golfing map. His golf course design business is responsible for more than 300 courses worldwide, including 11 in NC and five in SC.
Arnold Palmer was inducted into the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame in 2007.