Arnie: Palmer medical center changes, saves lives

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 10, 2014, 10:00 am

Daniel Whitney is better known by his gregarious professional persona, Larry the Cable Guy. But when something is wrong with your newborn, and doctors offer neither solace nor solution, you’re just Daniel, the worried dad.

“The problem was, different doctors told us different things,” Whitney said. “He’s going to need surgery; he’s not going to need surgery. We’ll put him in a harness; he’ll be fine in six months.”

Whitney’s son, Wyatt, was born with hip dysplasia in 2006. Daniel asked questions: What’s the best care? What are the long-term effects? How can you help my boy?

He got no definitive answers. But there was one promising directive: Go to Arnold Palmer.

The Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies are in Orlando, Fla. The Whitney family has a home just north, in Sanford.

If you’ve got nothing else, it’s good to have a name you can trust.

For all the words used in conjunction with Arnold Palmer, none hold truer than "integrity." The man isn’t just a very famous and very successful golfer; he’s a faithful brand.

In the mid-1980s, Palmer was 20 years removed from his final major victory, a decade distanced from his last PGA Tour win. He was in his mid-50s and looking for a charity to support.

It’s funny the way things turn out. Palmer just wanted a philanthropic association, one in which he could lend financial and intangible support. He ended up creating a secondary legacy that he considers his primary achievement. 

“I don’t talk too much about my major accomplishments,” Palmer said. “I like to think that the things I’ve done off the course are how many will remember me.”

When Palmer and his late wife Winnie first visited the children’s hospital in Orlando in 1984, it was just a six-bed unit. Six beds. It was the best they could do.

Then Arnold Palmer got involved.

“He saw how crowded we were, but he saw the future. He saw the potential for success and he said, ‘We will do better,’ And we did do better because a few years later we were moving to the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital,” said Dr. Gregor Alexander, a neonatologist. “Without his commitment, without his passion, without the belief that he had in all of us – I’m talking about all the physicians, all the nurses, all the staff – we could not have accomplished what we have done in building two hospitals.”

Today, the children’s hospital is a 158-bed, 362,000-square-foot facility. The adjacent Winnie Palmer hospital, connected to the children’s center by an overhead walkway, houses 225 beds over 400,000 square feet. The medical center is the largest facility dedicated to children and women in the United States. 

When Arnold Palmer attaches himself to a project, be it saving lives or quenching thirst, he doesn’t half-ass a thing. He doesn’t lease his name; you get him. You get the man, his ideals, his ethic, his pride, his commitment.

“I told them from the start: we’re going to do this the right way,” Palmer said.

Lives saved at the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children

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A story goes that Palmer’s longtime friend and manager Mark McCormack was once a little short with a server. Palmer pulled him aside and said, according to tour peer Dow Finsterwald, “’If you’re going to represent me I would like you to do it in a very pleasant and friendly manner.’ I think Mark got the message.”

Point being: The name Arnold Palmer, and everything associated with it, be it great works or small gestures, has substance.

That name lent peace to Daniel Whitney. You might not know it by his redneck character but Whitney loves golf. You tell a golf fan Arnold Palmer can help him, he’s gonna go seek such help.

Whitney went to the hospital and met with Dr. Chad Price, an orthopedic surgeon. “He had a confident talk,” Whitney said. “He knew what he was talking about and we could tell we were in the right place. He said he didn’t think we had to have surgery, that we could cure him without it and, by gosh, he did it.”

Wyatt is 8 now, healthy as can be, and his name bears a wing in the International Hip Dysplasia Institute, to which the Whitney family, through their Git-R-Done Foundation, has given $5 million.

“If it weren’t for Arnold Palmer, there’d be no Arnold Palmer Hospital; if there was no Arnold Palmer Hospital, I wouldn’t have found Chad Price; and if I wouldn’t have found Chad Price, who knows what would’ve happened with my boy,” Whitney said.

Annika Sorenstam shares his sentiment. She gave birth to her second child at 27 weeks at Winnie Palmer.

“Will got off to a tough start in his life, but thanks to the care and thanks to the love and thanks to what they provide at Winnie Palmer Hospital he’s now a (3-year-old), full-of-life boy,” she said. “It’s just a miracle and we thank them pretty much every day for what they’ve done for giving us the hope that he would survive.”

PGA Tour player Brian Davis and his wife, Julie, had two children born at Winnie Palmer. Their son, Henry, was born with kidney problems. Their daughter, Madeline, suffered two collapsed lungs. Both are in good health now but Brian often wondered, while they were being treated, if his family was receiving special service because he was a professional golfer. That quickly subsided.

“I spent a lot of time in this hospital, seeing how they dealt with everybody coming into the hospital, other families, other children. We got to meet a lot of parents in the waiting rooms, the extra places for the kids to play and stuff like that and I was amazed how good the care is for everyone across the board,” Davis said. “I think it’s just such an achievement for Mr. Palmer.”

Brian Davis and family

Brian Davis donated his winnings from the '12 API to the Children's Hospital

“Every single patient – every single baby, every single child, every single mother has been taken care of like they would be the only patient that we’re caring for,” Dr. Alexander said. “They are being cared for like they are a part of our family. It’s not just a job; it’s a mission. No matter how busy we are and how many patients we have, we’ll always give each baby, each child and each mother a specific treatment that they need with a lot of caring and compassion.” 

Brandon Brown was a track star who broke his ankle so severely that doctors in Michigan wanted to amputate his leg. Shannon Smowton was near death after contracting E. Coli at a petting farm in Florida. Trinity Simmons was born prematurely, at 2 pounds, in a foreign country.

Kids of different ages in different circumstances, all in need of the same thing: a medical miracle.

Arnold Palmer, for all the jokes about Jesus and a 1-iron, is not a savior. But he helped establish the foundation and lay down the principles for two entities that come as close to producing divine acts as we can comprehend.

What is a miracle, but an extraordinary event that is believed – or feared – to be impossible? The healing of an ailing child, to which every parent will attest, is a miraculous occasion.

Palmer has borne witness. He visits the hospital. He meets the families. This is personal for him.

It could have been superficial. He could have sold his name and donated proceeds from his PGA Tour event: I’ll make some money, you make some money – we both win. But this was never about financial numbers.

For Palmer, it was about this: “The Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies is great and last year we had 13,000 kids born in that hospital and it gets more substantial every year. We are directly responsible for heart transplants, liver transplants, we do everything in the medical field for children and women, and it has been very successful. We’ll continue to grow it as time goes on, but we’re very pleased with what happening there.”

Wednesday, Sept. 10 marks the 25th anniversary of the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. It’s also Palmer’s 85th birthday. The two are intrinsically tied.

“If you really get to know Arnold Palmer the man, he is a person that cares about other people and the needs of other people,” said John Bozard, the president of the Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation.

“Years ago, a family named their child Arnold Palmer. One of our nurses said, ‘I guess you want him to grow up and be a golfer.’ The mom said, ‘No, we want him to grow up and be just as kind and as generous as Arnold Palmer himself.’”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

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“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.