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Arnold Palmer Masters chairman Payne remembers Palmer

Arnold Palmer was golf's "finest ambassador" and a "hero to generations" says Augusta National chairman Billy Payne.

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Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National, described Arnold Palmer's impact on the Masters as "immeasurable" as part of a glowing tribute to the golf legend, who has died at the age of 87.

Palmer became synonymous with the Masters during his illustrious playing career, winning his first of four green jackets in 1958 and adding the other three at two-year intervals until 1964.

The man known affectionately as "The King" took on the role of honorary starter at the competition at Augusta National from 2007.

Part of golf's "Big Three" in the 1960s, along with Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, Palmer claimed seven majors in his distinguished career and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.

Nicklaus led the tributes to his former rival and long-time friend, with Payne adding his heart-felt homage in a statement posted on the Masters official website.

It read: "The Masters Tournament, together with the membership of Augusta National Golf Club, joins the global sports and golf community in honouring the memory of Arnold Palmer.

"The very essence of the Masters is twofold: to summon nothing less than greatness from the men who annually compete for the title of Masters champion, and to inspire people from all over the world through the magnificence of the game of golf. History at Augusta National will show that Arnold answered the calling for Masters greatness throughout his career, winning the Green Jacket in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964. The inspiration we drew from Arnold Palmer, however, is what we celebrate now and forever. 

"Arnold's bold and daring approach to the game, combined with his citizenship, warmth, humour, humility and grace, were truly the signature of the man that we came to know, and will fondly remember, as The King. His presence at Augusta National will be sorely missed, but his impact on the Masters remains immeasurable - and it will never wane.

"Our thoughts are with Arnold's beloved wife Kit and his entire family. We look forward to the 2017 Masters Tournament, when we will do our very best to appropriately pay our respects to Arnold Palmer – a Masters legend, our game's finest ambassador, and a hero to generations of people throughout the world.

"Most importantly, we, his friends at Augusta National Golf Club, will always love him."

Current Masters champion Danny Willett echoed the sentiments of Payne via Twitter, the European Ryder Cup player posting: "RIP Arnie!! Sad for golfers and fans all around the world!! A true legend of the game…#TheKing #ArniesArmy"

Organisers at the Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill course in Florida thanked well-wishers for their kind words, expressing their own sadness at Palmer's passing.

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