If you thought Augusta National was a place too self-centered to continue the trend of honoring the memory of Arnold Palmer, you’d be wrong.
We know the green jacket is a revered garment. As such, it isn’t usually affixed with lapel pins or extraneous ornamentation. So it was a bit of a shock to see Augusta National Chairman, Billy Payne sporting a big white button on his lapel at his pre-tournament press conference.
The pin said, among other things, “I am a member of Arnie’s Army.”
Payne told the scribes gathered in the posh new media center the club means to honor Mr. Palmer, who won’t be at the Masters for the first time in more than 60 years.
“On behalf of our members and our patrons, we are honored to make a significant contribution to the Arnold Palmer Charitable Foundation, and tomorrow morning, for the Honorary Starter’s Ceremony, we will once again proudly summon Arnie’s Army and provide every one of our patrons on the ground a special commemorative badge that I am wearing today.”
Certainly, you have the respect the club both honoring Palmer and pledging some of their unimaginable riches to the Foundation. And while Payne isn’t as reserved and austere as many of his predecessors, it was both surprising and touching to hear him reflect on Arnold Palmer at length.
“For the first time in over 60 years, our sport is without its preeminent hero; a man whose greatness as player and a champion was exceeded only by his qualities as a man. Arnold Palmer let us all into his life; not from the distance that is typically maintained between a superstar and a fan, but into his life, close‑up, so that we could literally push him to greatness and regale in his accomplishments as though they were our own.”
Payne talked further about Palmer’s significance to Augusta National, where the late golfing great was a member.
“During his extraordinary life, Arnold Palmer and Augusta National connected in so many wonderful ways. His four victories, the Arnold Palmer Tribute Monument on the 16th tee, his annual participation in our Honorary Starter ceremony, even his membership into our Club, all of them, outward displays of our love and affection for this very special man.”
The Masters Instagram account has been on form in, both generally and with respect to Palmer-related content so far. They posted these photos of Palmer’s homemade yardage book from the 1960s.
Also, this shot of Marc Leishman’s custom Callaway headcovers featuring the dates of Palmer’s Masters wins.
And of course (grab a tissue), the account posted this classic shot of a green jacket-wearing Palmer just after the King passed in September.
The Masters Tournament, together with the membership of Augusta National Golf Club, joins the global sports and golf community in honoring the memory of Arnold Palmer. The very essence of the Masters is twofold: to summon nothing less than greatness from the men who annually compete for the title of Masters champion, and to inspire people from all over the world through the magnificence of the game of golf. History at Augusta National will show that Arnold answered the calling for Masters greatness throughout his career, winning the Green Jacket in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964. The inspiration we drew from Arnold Palmer, however, is what we celebrate now and forever. Arnold’s bold and daring approach to the game, combined with his citizenship, warmth, humor, humility and grace, were truly the signature of the man that we came to know, and will fondly remember, as The King. His presence at Augusta National will be sorely missed, but his impact on the Masters remains immeasurable – and it will never wane. Our thoughts are with Arnold’s beloved wife Kit and his entire family. We look forward to the 2017 Masters Tournament, when we will do our very best to appropriately pay our respects to Arnold Palmer – a Masters legend, our game’s finest ambassador, and a hero to generations of people throughout the world. Most importantly, we, his friends at Augusta National Golf Club, will always love him.