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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Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.

Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.