Arnie: Awards, honors and new beginnings

By Nick MentaSeptember 10, 2014, 10:00 am

George Washington, Neil Armstrong, Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, Frank Sinatra, Rosa Parks and Arnold Palmer.

All of them are recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal, but only one of them has his face plastered on a 22.5 fl. oz. Arizona Beverage Company can.

Is it possible now in 2014, 20 years after his final U.S. Open start, that Arnold Palmer is most widely known not for his golf or philanthropy but for the mass production of a lemonade-iced tea hybrid?

What, if anything, can possibly stand up to convenience-store-beverage supremacy?

His seven majors, 26 amateur titles and 95 total professional wins aside, a consideration of the King’s off-course accomplishments – from the success of his own PGA Tour stop, to the founding of the senior tour, to his award from the United States government, and, yes, to the refrigerated section of your local Wawa and/or 7-11 – seems in order.

Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman

Arnold Palmer with 1983 Bay Hill Classic winner Greg Norman. (Getty)

Click here for the full collection of 'Arnie' stories


While in Orlando for the 1962 Florida Citrus Open, Palmer first visited the Bay Hill Club & Lodge, and after seven years of haggling with the club’s ownership group, he finally purchased it outright in 1969.

“I was really not interested in being one member of a large group … some of their members weren’t too happy about that,” Palmer recalled.

The members may not have liked it, but that purchase has paid serious dividends for the Orlando community. Ten years after Palmer took over and began remaking the club, the PGA Tour moved its Orlando stop to Palmer’s new home track. It was one thing to have his own event, much like his rival Jack Nicklaus had accomplished with the Memorial five years prior, but the then-Bay Hill Citrus Classic gave Palmer the chance to begin his charitable efforts in earnest.

“We talked and [Orlando construction magnate] Frank Hubbard said [to me], ‘You could do something more for this community.’ He said, ‘If you were really interested we would make an Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Women,’ and so I agreed to that, and the tournament was the benefactor to the hospital, and that’s how it all started.”

The event now known as the Arnold Palmer Invitational has actually launched two hospitals at the Arnold Palmer Medical Center: the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies.

“Every time someone walks through those turnstiles at the tournament, it’s helping a child here in Central Florida,” said John Bozard, president of the medical center, “and so we are grateful for the proceeds from the tournament.”

One would assume those previously put-out Bay Hill members probably came around after a bit.

Arnold Palmer

Arnold Palmer at the 1984 U.S. Senior Open. (Getty)


Rewind to Palmer's50th birthday, Sept. 10, 1979. Not coincidentally, the Senior PGA Tour, with a minimum age threshold of 50, started the following year.

One of the many brainchildren of then-PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman, the senior tour was born from the success of the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf event that began in 1978, featuring names like Sam Snead, Roberto De Vicenzo and Julius Boros.

But the real draw of the newly formed senior tour, and the reason it exists more than three decades later as the Champions Tour, wasn’t Boros or De Vicenzo or even Snead.

From Hollis Cavner, executive director of the tour’s 3M Championship: “I don’t think there would be a Champions Tour today if it wasn’t for Arnold.”

From current tour member Bobby Clampett: “If it wasn’t for Arnold Palmer, we would not be out here on the senior tour or Champions Tour competing.”

From writer John Feinstein: “There wouldn’t have been a senior tour without him.”

Palmer himself describes the initial motivation behind the tour as an opportunity for players of a bygone era to still compete and to play for amounts of money that simply weren’t up for grabs when those then-greats were at their peak. Of course, it was Palmer who was drawing that money to the tour.

The senior tour, more than anything, was an opportunity for golf fans to continue to see Palmer in person and on their television sets. Though he won only 10 senior tour titles, including five senior majors, it’s clear he was the driving force of the circuit’s early years, before names like Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino crossed the age barrier.

“He started it,” Clampett said. “He got the ball rolling and sponsors soon found that there was a viable product out here on the Champions Tour. When Arnold Palmer was playing it was big news.”

Big enough news that senior events featuring Palmer rivaled the regular tour’s own television ratings.

Three decades later, weekly purses on the Champions Tour hover around $2 million thanks in part to Palmer’s initial legwork.

“He was accessible. He went to all the functions,” Cavner said. “He did everything he was asked to do. … Every draw party, every cocktail reception he needed to be at, he made fabulous.”

Amazing what some people can get done at a cocktail party.

Arnold Palmer

Arnold Palmer Half & Half Iced Tea-Lemonade


Speaking of beverages, how does one get their own drink named after them?

“I was mixing iced tea and lemonade in my kitchen since as long as I can remember,” Palmer once told Interview magazine. “It wasn't until sometime in the early 1960s that it became associated with me publicly.  I was playing golf in Palm Springs and after a round I asked the waitress in a restaurant to bring me a glass of iced tea and lemonade.  A lady sitting nearby heard me and asked the waitress to bring her a ‘Palmer,’ too.”

The drink unofficially bore Palmer’s name for decades after that, but it wasn’t until 2001 that a man named Mark Dowey figured out how to market it. Sitting with two friends in a clubhouse, Dowey, already in the dairy business, drew up some initial plans for a business proposal on a napkin, which he would later present to Palmer’s management team at IMG.

Once Dowey got Palmer’s blessing, he found a willing partner in the Arizona Beverage Company. As of 2010, the Palmer brand represented 10 percent of Arizona’s business, or $100 million, and 40 percent of its overall growth.

There are plenty of people who have no relationship whatsoever with golf. And yet they still see Arnold Palmer’s face almost every day

Arnold Palmer receives the Congressional Gold Medal


And so while Palmer’s legacy extends well beyond golf – both in his charitable and business endeavors – his most amazing accomplishment won’t be found in Latrobe or Orlando or even the supermarket, but in Washington, D.C.

The United States has been from its inception a representative democracy, but the King sure has spent a lot of time in the nation’s capital. Palmer has been awarded both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, the country’s two highest civilian honors.

He is one of only six athletes – along with Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, Joe Louis and Byron Nelson  to ever receive the latter distinction.

Voting on whether or not to give Palmer the medal in 2012, the Senate was unanimous while the House passed the motion, 422-1. (The "1" was Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who has always voted against spending taxpayer money to give anyone the medal. And for the record, a referendum to award Nicklaus the gold medal made it through the House in May, with a 371-10 margin.)

And so perhaps this sums up Palmer's most amazing achievement:

“[I am] particularly proud of anything that the House and the Senate agree on,” Palmer said upon receiving the medal.

Speaking about Palmer, House majority leader John Boehner was moved to tears (shocking, right?). After joking about government gridlock, Palmer added these words:

“It’s humbling to realize that just six athletes have been [given] this gold medal award. I like to think and truly believe that golf and golfers promote some sort of human values that symbolize such characteristics as honesty, hard work, dedication, responsibility, respect for the other guy, playing by the rules. Kind of something we do in the game of golf.

“I am very humbled. Thank you very much.”

Getty Images

Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

Getty Images

Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

Getty Images

Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

Getty Images

Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."