AOPA will be closing at 2:30pm on Friday, May 24th and will also be closed on Monday, May 27th. We will reopen Tuesday morning, May 28th th at 8:30am ET.
Get extra lift from AOPA. Start your free membership trial today! Click here

A golf legend's Cessna Skylark

Arnold Palmer set records in flight, as well as on fairways, greens

A photo of golfing great Arnold Palmer carrying his golf bag away from a Cessna 175 Skylark recently popped up on eBay just a few days before the sports world turned its attention to the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

Golfing great and record-setting pilot Arnold Palmer carries his golf clubs as he exits a 1958 Cessna 175 Skylark that he leased early in his career. Photo courtesy of David Arenson/Only Classics.

Although the legendary competitor and aviator died in 2016, Palmer is remembered fondly during the first full week in April as azaleas pop into bloom at Augusta National Golf Club, where the winner is adorned with a green blazer. Palmer’s name is etched on the silver Masters Trophy four times, and his likeness is on display in photos posted throughout the grounds. The world-class aviator served as an honorary Masters starter from 2007 to 2015 (along with fellow competitors Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player).

However, it was the black-and-white 8-by-10 print of Palmer and a Pennsylvania-based Skylark that he leased from Latrobe Aviation Inc. early in his sports career that caught the attention of AOPA Pilot Information Center Senior Aviation Technical Specialist Rodney Martz. He quickly sprung for the $20 to purchase the print, and began to do some research on the airplane.

Martz found out that Palmer used some of the winnings from his first Masters victory in 1958 to take flying lessons in a Cessna 172 at Palmer’s hometown field in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, which is now known as Arnold Palmer Regional Airport. Palmer was introduced to aviation after hitching a flight in a Piper Cub near his home, and he was hooked. He soloed in six hours.

“After I got down the basics, I had the thrill of my first solo flight—a spin over the Allegheny Mountains during which I felt the power of having the controls of the airplane entirely to myself,” Palmer said.

After earning his private pilot certificate, he leased the Skylark—which is still flying today. He often flew with another pilot while gaining valuable experience. Palmer’s flying and golf career ascended at about the same time, and he used a variety of general aviation aircraft to expeditiously attend golf tournaments across the United States while climbing the ratings and certificate ladder.

“Arnie” logged over 18,000 hours of flying, moving up steadily from single-engine Cessnas to the Citation X jet he piloted to a closed-course speed record in 1997. Palmer also set a round-the-world speed record in 1976 when he circumnavigated the globe in 57 hours, 25 minutes, and 42 seconds.

Palmer competed in the Masters for 50 years and retired from professional golf with 92 wins, nearly $7 million in prize money, and a 2004 Presidential Medal of Freedom. His love for aviation led the way for fellow Masters champions Phil Mickelson and Charl Schwartzel, and other athletes, to pursue pilot certificates of their own.

David Tulis
David Tulis
Senior Photographer
Senior Photographer David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-wining AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft ad photography.
Topics: People

Related Articles