Despite playing in an era when purses were low (certainly compared to today’s PGA TOUR pros) a recent report from Sportico showed that Arnold Palmer is the third-highest earning athlete of all time—and that’s across all sports.
For his 95 professional victories (62 of them on the PGA TOUR), Palmer earned just $1.86 million. However, Palmer’s rise coincided with the rise of televised sports, helping him to build a profile that lead to numerous endorsement deals with the likes of Pennzoil, Hertz and more. Those deals, combined with Palmer’s business acumen, has him with reported lifetime earnings of roughly $885 million, just ahead of Jack Nicklaus’ $830 million (Jack is No.4 on Sportico’s list).
The list is based on inflation-adjusted career earnings and is topped by Michael Jordan (at $2.62 billion) and Tiger Woods ($2.1 billion). Adjusted income for Palmer is $1.5 billion, with $1.38 for Nicklaus. With Phil Mickelson ($1.08 billion adjusted) and Greg Norman ($815 million adjusted) also in the top 20, at No.11 and No.15, respectively, golfers have a relatively good showing in the “all time earnings” category — which is due to their longevity, according to Pinnacle Advertising’s Bob Dorfman.
“With competitive careers that can span 30 years or more, golfers have the longest shelf life of any pro athletes,” he told Sportico.
Consider that NFL running backs typically play an average 2.57 years (according to Statista), and perhaps opt for a set of clubs over a football for the next kid’s birthday in your life.