'Unlucky' break brought Palmer, Owen together

By Rex HoggardMarch 14, 2017, 7:45 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – A few years ago Greg Owen walked into Arnold Palmer’s office at Bay Hill to drop off a letter requesting a sponsor exemption into the King’s PGA Tour event.

Owen had done this before, but this time was different. This time he was asked if he’d like to hand deliver the letter to the tournament host.

“It was really unusual for me, I was speechless,” Owen said. “He was sitting behind his desk, he started the conversation because I didn’t know what to say.”

Nearly everyone has an Arnie story, and this week’s event at Bay Hill, the first since Palmer passed away last September, will be a celebration of those stories as much as it will be a chance to honor one of the game’s most endearing players.

But Owen’s story is a little different.

On Tuesday, Danny Willett talked at length about a letter he received from Palmer following his victory last year at the Masters. Rory McIlroy tweeted a similar letter the King sent him in 2011 after he’d won the U.S. Open.

Owen didn’t get one of those letters, but his correspondence may have been even more memorable.

The Englishman’s first encounter with Palmer came in 2006, his second year on Tour, after he’d played three solid rounds at Bay Hill. He birdied the 10th hole on Sunday, added another at No. 14 and took a one-stroke lead with a birdie on the 16th hole.

Owen joined Bay Hill about five years ago and like many who were lucky enough to be in regular contact with Palmer, he marveled at his ability to connect with everyone, from fellow professionals to his legend of fans.


Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


But Owen’s connection was profoundly different.

“You’d see him in the locker room and he knew who you were,” Owen said. “One time he introduced me to his wife and said, ‘This is Greg Owen, he was the unlucky guy.”

The unlucky guy had stood over a 3-footer for par at the 17th hole at the ’06 Arnold Palmer Invitation that would have given him a two-stroke lead. Owen pushed the putt and the comebacker from 18 inches danced around the hole and refused to fall for a double bogey-5. He bogeyed the 72nd hole after airmailing the green with his approach shot and finished a stroke behind Rod Pampling.

Unlucky, indeed.

Palmer sent Owen a letter following that loss at a moment when he needed it the most. His runner-up showing to Pampling had moved him to 48th in the Officical World Golf Ranking and the next week at The Players he finished 22nd only to drop to 52nd in the world, two spots outside a start at that season’s Masters.

“It obviously wasn’t a very easy time for me,” Owen recalled. “I was really disappointed and then I got this letter. You could see it was personal, every word he’d thought about and wrote on. You could tell.

“The fact that he’d lost majors from a winning position, that he‘d been through it you could tell he was talking from the heart. What situation in golf hadn’t he been in? He understood how it was.”

The single-page letter gave condolences, but also congratulations for how he’d handled defeat, a part of the Palmer persona that was as appealing as any victory celebration.

By the time Owen became a member at Bay Hill, Palmer wasn’t playing much golf because of age and injury. But Owen would see him on the practice tee from time to time, tinkering with a new driver or wedge. “He’d always have a bunch of clubs with him,” he recalled.

Sometimes Palmer would be tooling around in a golf cart and stop behind Owen who was hitting balls on the range. He would stop practicing. “I didn’t want to be critiqued,” Owen laughed.

Everything about Bay Hill is a testament to Palmer, from the sign requesting players remove their hats before entering the clubhouse, to the daily “shootout” among members.

Many days Palmer would be waiting when players finished the regular game in Bay Hill’s rustic locker room with words of encouragement and the occasional needle.

“He’d sit around the table with the guys playing cards asking questions, ‘How’d you play?’” Owen said. “He was such a nice guy, there’s no other way to put it. He never forgot, he was just great with everybody.”

For Owen, that connection was very real. At perhaps the lowest point of his career, the man who was so seamlessly connected to greatness made the realities of failure something to be embraced and learned from.

It at least partially explains why Owen gravitated to Bay Hill in an attempt, subconscious or otherwise, to be closer to that kind of gravitational pull. On Tuesday, as he made his way down the 10th fairway during a practice round, Owen shrugged at the thought. For the 45-year-old, it was a little more straightforward then that.

“Playing at a club with Arnie, watching him up there hitting balls, that’s pretty cool,” he smiled.

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Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.

The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.

There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


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Finances


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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.