In the week of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the Bay Hill Golf Club & Lodge, there is notable longing in the air for the namesake of the event, who passed away from heart complications in September at 87-years-old.
It comes as little surprise that there have already been numerous tributes not just in words from players attending the tournament but also in a more permanent and textile form.
Book-ending Adam Hadwin’s win at the Valspar Championship was a mural, painted by Sebastian Coolidge to commemorate the King of golf. During the days of the tournament Coolidge painted a portrait of young Arnie, which was a fitting tribute to the week that lay ahead.
The most recent announcement sees the Claret Jug on display at Bay Hill Golf Club & Lodge this week, honouring the man who won it back-to-back in 1961 and 1962 at Royal Birkdale and Royal Troon.
At Royal Birkdale, his famous 6-iron shot from the base of a bush onto the green on what is now the 16th hole is commemorated by a plaque.
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We have given a great deal of thought to how we can show our appreciation for Arnold’s immense contribution to The Open over many years and were pleased to provide the Claret Jug to form part of the exhibition celebrating his career at Bay Hill this week."
“His back-to-back victories in The Open in 1961 and 1962 featured some of the most exciting and thrilling golf in the Championship’s history. As The Open returns to Royal Birkdale this July, Arnold’s victory there will be at the forefront of our minds and we are planning further tributes at the Championship.”
But the Claret Jug is not the only thing that will be on display this week. It was announced earlier this year that an extensive collection of memorabilia belonging to Arnold Palmer will debut on display at the Bay Hill Golf Club & Lodge this week. The collection includes trophies, medals and other items taken from his office in his hometown of Latrobe, one of which was an incredible hand-written yardage book of Augusta National showcased by Callaway in the video below.
The 16th tee was noted as one of Palmer’s favourite places to watch golf during his tournament, and his personal golf cart with his two large bags of golf clubs will be positioned there this week.
Palmer’s memorabilia will be travelling to a vast number of golf courses and tournaments, which in all likelihood includes all four of the major championships. Following the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the collection will make its way to Augusta National for the Masters.
Alastair Johnston, chairman of Arnold Palmer Enterprises, said requests for Palmer’s possessions have been pouring in with the purpose of honoring and remembering the late Hall of Fame golfer.
It is not surprising, as interest had barely waned while he was alive either. Recently the shoes worn by Palmer during his first Masters victory in 1958 sold at auction for $66,000.
Battling for its position as the tallest homage to Palmer is the 14-foot, 1,400-pound bronze statue of the King which was unveiled last week during a ceremony at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge. The statue, which is similar to the one at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, NC, is located behind the first tee to greet golfers as they play.
Amy Palmer reacted “I think to see the embrace of the event and and this tribute to him with this sculpture and how much it means to people, I know that that would please him tremendously because these people all meant so much to him”
“I’m thrilled that we have such a dedicated chairman, board and volunteers and then to see the players who have so reached out and talked about how important this year is to them is just really really special to all of us”
“And I think for my dad, to be honoured in that way, is just going to make it an incredibly experience, and it comes with very mixed emotions with not having him here”
Of course, not all players have prioritized the event, with only 14 of the World's top 25 having committed to the tournament. The schedule this year is incredibly tight leading up to the Masters, with the WGC Dell Match Play being held the week after the Arnold Palmer Invitiatioinal and the week before the Masters.
As a result, a huge number of high profile golfers are choosing to miss the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Sergio Garcia, Justin Thomas, and Tiger Woods are all names to miss the event.
However, there are a number that will be there to pay tribute to the king. Defending Champion Jason Day will return from being unwell, and will be joined by Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson and Justin Rose.
What do you think, should the top players in the World have made this event a priority? Tweet us @thetodaysgolfer