In addition to competing for the Trophy, World Ranked #7, Rickie Fowler, joined Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez and TV commentator Peter “Jake” Jacobsen as hosts for this year’s tournament. Fowler has never been shy about his adoration of Mr. Palmer and he joins Nancy and Peter who have had long standing friendships with the King. The three filled roles Arnie traditionally held during the API. “He was a role model for so many of us.” said LPGA Champion Lopez who played with Palmer in a practice round at Pebble Beach when she was just 15. “He taught us how to conduct ourselves and treat our fans. He really believed the fans made him who he was and he made sure we understood that too. And of course everyone stood at attention when Arnold spoke.”
Tiger is Back, but Rickie & Rory Also Draw the Crowds & Love.
The “Tiger Effect” was impossible to miss, with record crowds following the 8-time champion. Even before Tiger committed, tournament ticket sales were up over 15%, due in fact to the strong field playing and the sincere fan love for Rickie and Rory, and Arnie’s enduring legacy.
The Barber of Bay Hill
While Mr. Palmer played, walked (and later, rode) the fairways at Bay Hill, he reminded more than one player when they needed a haircut or shave. For Arnie, a clean look was a sign of respect for the fans and the game of golf. This year for the first time, players could get a professional barber experience, including haircut and shave, in the men’s locker room. V’s Barbershop of Windermere provided the complimentary service.
Arnie’s Toro Tractor on Display
After a 970 mile trek from Latrobe Country Club in Pennsylvania, the famous tractor featured in the Arnold Palmer commercials in the 1980’s was on display at Bay Hill’s Tenth tee all week. Fans had an opportunity to take a photograph of the bright orange 1947 Toro tractor Palmer’s father, Deacon, used as groundskeeper and head pro at Latrobe, and that Arnie later used into the 1980s.
Merchandise Sales Get Big Boost from Fanatics
The Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard is the first PGA TOUR event to partner with Fanatics, a global leader in licensed sports merchandise that sold tournament-branded apparel both online and through an expanded on site retail presence.
NEW: Arnie’s Army Player Philanthropy Award
In another first, Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation recognized Rickie Fowler with an all-new honor: The Player Philanthropy Award, given to a player who’s generosity and community engagement best exemplify Mr. Palmer’s values. On Wednesday during the API Opening Ceremony, Arnie’s Army presented a $100,000 donation to the Rickie Fowler Foundation to make the game of golf more accessible to young people who otherwise could not afford to participate.
Family Care Suite Debuts
In response to golf fans’ changing demographics, API partnered with the PGA TOUR and Orlando Health to open the first-ever Family Care Suite. The air-conditioned suite was located on the 18th tee and provided parents a place to take their little ones to cool off, change a diaper and, if needed, take a little break in the action and nursing moms privacy. Audrey Leishman, mother of three and wife of defending champion Marc Leishman, helped open the venue at noon Thursday.
Luck of the Irish Awarded for Most St. Patrick’s Day “SPIRIT”
A roving street team was on the hunt Saturday for fans with the most St. Paddy’s Spirit. Ten lucky guests sporting the most(or best) green were upgraded to Club 8 for the day, which included fresh gourmet food, full bar, cocktail tables for mingling and stadium seating to catch all the action.
Military Day Honors Heroes & Service Dogs
Local military veterans and their service dogs were honored at a heartwarming presentation Sunday. Sponsor Stryker Orthopedics, headquartered in Kalamazoo, Michigan, took part in a TOUR wide initiative to support military veterans and announced a special, four-legged “donation” to not for profit organization K9’s for Warriors., which took place at the Lockheed Martin Patriot’s Outpost along the ninth fairway.
The Red Cardigan
Rather than the traditional Navy jacket, Rory McIlroy received a red alpaca cardigan sweater like the iconic one Mr. Palmer used to wear. Arnie owned cardigans in a variety of colors and they became his favorite accessory, almost as recognizable as his signature “Palmer Pink.” The Champion’s cardigan features a golf-threaded invitational crest. Congratulations Rory.