It was a sad day, not only for me but golf fans around the world, when at a Champions Tour event after hitting two balls in the water, Arnold Palmer picked up his ball and announced to his fellow competitors, Lee Trevino and John Mahaffey that he was done finished retiring from competitive golf. To his credit as he always does, Arnold held his head high and finished the round for the fans. But at the news conference afterward, everyone knew that he meant what he had said.
The reality is that at 76 years old, Arnold Palmer cant beat many of his competitors on the Champions Tour. Guys like; Loren Roberts, Jay Haas, Fred Funk and his life-long partner and friend Peter Jacobsen. But I dont think the fans really care if he ever beats them. Arnold Palmer has done as much for golf as any player in the history of the game. There is no need to give you Arnold Palmers career statistics here.
The retirement of Arnold Palmer leaves a huge void on the Champions Tour and one frankly that cannot be filled. And as superstars like Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino wind their careers down it will become increasingly important for the Champions Tour to insure there is enough star power on this tour to generate high interest.
There currently is a core of big name players that need to continue to thrive. These players need to play a lot and avoid injury such as the ones that hampered Peter Jacobsen, Jerry Pate and Trevino last year. I would love to see Tom Watson play more and Greg Norman play even a few events. But I think the future success of the Champions Tour will rely heavily on the newcomers that come out and this year there will be some great ones. The first two that come to mind are Mark OMeara and Nick Price, both of whom will debut in February. The more that players of this caliber commit to a significant schedule on the Champions Tour the stronger it will be.
When Arnold finished that round last October, one of the greatest players ever, Lee Trevino, scrambled to get his ball and glove autographed. To me that pretty much says it all. Arnold Palmer will still play a few select events, and when we get to watch him it will be a treasure. Arnold, thanks for all youve given us.
Thats MY VIEW!
Editors Note: Mark Rolfing, a Maui resident, is one of the leading forces in sports event marketing and production in Hawaii. As NBC Sports award-winning golf commentator, Rolfing continues to cover top golf events such as the prestigious Ryder Cup, The Players Championship and The U.S Open. Rolfing also hosts Golf Hawaii on The Golf Channel. Golf Hawaii, now in its twelfth season is one of the longest running sports shows in the nation.