Often in our lives we have heard the term “gone but not forgotten”. This is definitely the way I feel about the man who really got me into golf… Arnold Palmer.
This week the PGA Tour makes its stop in Orlando, Florida the home of Bay Hill Golf Club which is simply the place that Arnie built. A golf course that I have wanted to visit in the past every year that I have gone to Florida for the PGA Merchandise Show but never did. I guess I had some sort of Augusta National type of security to it and “riff-raff” like me were not permitted. Honestly, my main reason for wanting to go into Bay Hill was to maybe catch a glimpse of the man who made me want to take up golf in the first place, maybe get close enough to absorb a firm handshake (like when I first met him) and to just say two little words… thank-you. My cowardice prevented it from happening. Speaking of cowardice and saying thanks.
I know this week is going to be about celebrating Mr. Palmer’s legacy and life as the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard is going to be played for the first time since we lost “our King” right before the last Ryder Cup in September. Hearts were heavy but it’s hard not to think that the victorious team from the U.S.A. had a little help from Mr. Palmer along the way. But getting back to the present, it’s just going to be tough to watch this week knowing that his physical presence is no longer among us. Spiritually however, you know he will be watching and look for a rainbow to rise over the course at some point this weekend. While there will be a lot of positives (and celebrations) discussed about what Mr. Palmer did for golf there are negatives to discuss as well. No… not from Mr. Palmer but more from some of the current crop of PGA Tour players.
As it turns out many of the world’s top-ranked golfers are not playing this week. Some of the names playing this week include Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, and Henrik Stenson. Big names and all of which are in the Top 10 Official World Golf Rankings. Yes there is star power aplenty as there is every year but who isn’t playing? Where are World #1 Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth? Scheduling conflicts because of the weeks prior? Cowardice, because some players simply do not like the course as suggested by Ian Poulter (who is playing this week). Seriously guys… don’t like the course? There is a list miles long of golfers from around the world that would love to play a round at Arnie’s golf course. I would love to go around Bay Hill with my clubs and take everything in. For the love of God, Buddha, Allah or whichever deity you follow sitting out for that reason is weak and wrong. Billy Horschel came out last week and blasted the guys that aren’t playing and admittedly I am no Horschel fan for whatever reason (actually I don’t know why) but I agree with him. If there was a year to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational than this had to be the year. the first after his passing.
All of the players have a right to pick and choose their own schedules as there is no player’s union stating that they have to play. It’s a right that (I suppose) they’ve earned… although I look at it in a way that is a bit prima donna which translates loosely to entitlement. This is the one year however where the guys SHOULD be playing and not balking at an event because of a dislike for a golf course. Honor the man. Honor “The King”. Without him, the likelihood of you being on television and making millions wouldn’t be likely (yes purses increased as the Tiger phenomenon took hold).
Mr. Palmer epitomized what the game was… or is. He epitomized the love of the game. He epitomized class. I know that if the roles were reversed he would have played in their event because that’s what Mr. Palmer was.
Until The Next Tee!