Arnold Palmer Invitational Stages An Opening Ceremony With Tributes To Late Golfer
The Arnold Palmer Invitational teed off this morning, but yesterday for the first time in the tournament's history organizers "staged an opening ceremony at Bay Hill that is expected to become a Wednesday tradition," according to Edgar Thompson of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. A "touching video tribute to the late Arnold Palmer struck all the right chords and featured footage from a 50-year span of his Hall of Fame career." More than 80 current players, beginning with grandson Sam Saunders, then "participated in a ceremonial tee shot on the Bay Hill practice range." The ceremony ended with a "flyover by a Coast Guard helicopter, a nod to Palmer’s love of flying." Thompson: "As organizers hoped, the entire ceremony was one fit for a king" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/16). In N.Y., Karen Crouse writes the tone of the tournament is one of "celebrating a grand life rather than mourning a great loss." The players have Palmer’s umbrella logo on their bags and hats, and Rickie Fowler is "wearing golf shoes that feature a collage of Palmer images." Arnold Palmer Enterprises Chair Alastair Johnston "absolved those who chose to bypass the tournament." He noted that Palmer had teamed with Jack Nicklaus to "break away" from the PGA of America in the '60s and form what became the PGA Tour so that "every touring professional could enjoy the freedom of being an independent contractor." Johnston: "That is the essence of the PGA Tour today, and the essence of the activation of that is players’ entitlement to basically establish their own schedules based on their own values and ambitions" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/16).
SHOWING APPRECIATION: ESPN.com's Jason Sobel noted the honors being given to Palmer are "almost too numerous to count." This week's tournament is "wrapped into a bigger event, a tribute to a man credited for influencing so much within the game." Sobel: "This is a tournament, yes. But it's also an event, those two terms uncommonly unequal this week." Jason Day said, "If feels way bigger than what it was last year" (ESPN.com, 3/15). The SENTINEL's Thompson notes Fowler's special shoe has a collage of Palmer on "each side of the shoes." Palmer’s signature is "laser-engraved on the Velcro straps," while his "multi-colored umbrella logo sits behind the tongue of the left shoe" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/16).
UP CLOSE & PERSONAL: Thompson in a separate piece notes at this year's tournament, fans will have a chance to "get closer to the action, with general seating available around seven greens." Arnold Palmer Invitational COO Marci Doyle said, "It’s about the fans and they should be having a front-row, first-class experience." The Palmer Patio will "move from the 18th to 14th hole, offering views of five shots by players." Palmer’s golf cart will "sit at the 16th hole, his favorite viewing spot tournament week." On Sunday, the winner will "receive a red cardigan sweater, like those Palmer loved to wear, rather than the blue blazer awarded previous Bay Hill champions" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/16). In Boston, Ron Borges writes under the header, "Memory Of Arnold Palmer Looms Large At His Tournament" (BOSTON HERALD, 3/16).