In sports, they sometimes refer to horse racing as "the sport of kings."
But there was only one "King."
I have been playing golf for more than 30 years, introduced to the game by my future father-in-law (much to my future wife's lament), hooked from the very first time one of those tiny white spheres rocketed off the club face and went dead straight, instead of my normal nasty dead left trajectory, the snap hook that has been my nemesis for every one of those three-plus decades.
I was what you would call a "publinx" golfer. No country clubs for me, unless maybe I was attending a wedding reception.
I fell hard for golf, devouring every instruction book and video, spending at least as much time on the driving range as I ever spent on the course, convinced the elusive secret to the golf swing was in that next bucket of balls.
The truth is I was never going to be the next Jack Nicklaus. He was a virtuoso, reminding me of a great sports quote: He plays a game with which I am not familiar.
I admired Nicklaus.
But I loved Arnold Palmer.
This was not a country club golfer. He was one of us. Arnold Palmer's swing was not a thing of beauty. Unless you happened to be a duffer looking for inspiration.
Palmer actually charged onto the golf scene before I got interested in the game. He would take a drag on his cigarette, toss it aside, hitch up his pants, then walk up to the tee and lash the ball with the signature swing, his arms eventually windmilling around his head.
One look at Palmer and I knew I had found my hero.
Lay up? Not the King. Arnold always went for it. And we who did the same - if only on the driving range - loved him for it.
Then there was something else. Most golfers were stoic, cold, calculating warriors. Then along came the pride of Latrobe. Palmer had an electric personality, and was not afraid to show it on the course. Again, just like we did on our public course rounds, thrilling at the occasion good shots, and cursing the mishits.
Palmer's winning personality was made for TV, and he put the sport on his back - and that mix of guts, passion, wit and laughter, and took it out of the country clubs and to the masses. We had found our hero.
Golf had plenty of superstars - Hogan, Nelson, Snead, Nicklaus.
But it only had one King.
Palmer, the pride of Latrobe, Pa., learned the game at the side of his father, the greenskeeper at Latrobe County Club. Yes, his dad worked at the club. But this was no aristocrat. This was one of us.
That appeal burned through the TV, bringing a sport that had been relegated to the "haves" to the "have-nots."
It turns out commoners could be just as frustrated by this maddening game as our wealthy peers.
Once you step onto that first tee, there is no pedigree, no preferred status, no class system among golfers.
There is only you and the course, and the knowledge that the course is almost always going to win.
Public golfers needed someone to bring the game to our level.
That's what Arnold Palmer did.
'The King' died yesterday at age 87.
But he will live forever. Arnold Palmer took a game that was too often reserved for the masses and brought it to the masses. I'm not sure if I should praise him or thank him for that curse.
RIP, Arnold Palmer.
The King is gone, but what he did for the game - and those poor souls doomed to chase that little white ball - will live forever.