Visiting the Arnold Palmer Invitational through the years
This week on the PGA Tour is the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club and Lodge. I have had the opportunity of attending this event for several years past and have made so many wonderful memories. Including interviewing Lauren Thompson and Cara (Robinson) Banks, meeting Annika Sorenstam, interviewing Danny Lee, meeting the guys on the Callaway tour van, seeing Arnie, and spending time with my family.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 I am not attending the tournament this year but look forward to watching it on TV and reminiscing about all the great memories I have made throughout the years.
2016 was the first year I got to attend this event. It was so much fun to be there, and experience it all. There were a few highlights of this year including hanging out with Danny Lee and getting a thumbs-up from Mr. Palmer himself. My sister had met Danny at the PGA Championship in 2015 and she had become a huge fan when he gave her a ball. We caught up with him at the Deustche Bank Championship (now the Northern Trust Championship) and my sister and I were both excited to see him again. He was playing a practice round on the Tuesday before the tournament started and my dad, sister, and I were watching. He invited both of us to go inside the ropes with him and walk while he was playing. We got to help his caddy get distances, put balls down for him to chip, and talk to him (After this hole I went to get lunch with my grandfather and my sister ended up continuing walking with him for the rest of the back nine). I also had the opportunity to film a clip for Golf Channel asking Chris DiMarco a question. I knew I wanted to come back to this amazing event in years to come.
2017 was a particularly memorable year for me at the event as I interviewed Lauren and Cara, met the hosts of Morning Drive, and met Annika for the first time, and interviewed Danny Lee! Interviewing Lauren and Cara was such a special experience for me, it was also the first "project"/interview I did for NH Golfer Gal. They were both so nice, as were all of the hosts, and made 10 year old me feel comfortable. When my sister, dad, and I were talking to Gary Williams near the Arnie statue and Annika was filming a clip Gary offered to introduce us. Annika was so sweet and we talked for a few minutes as well as took a picture. Meeting your hero is not something you expect to have the opportunity to do but I have had that chance a few times and am so grateful! We caught up with Danny as had become the usual and I had the opportunity to ask him some questions! We also met an author named Curt Sampson who interviewed my sister, dad, and I about going to tournaments, getting autographs, and the "professional autograph seekers".
2018. Every year my sister and I loved getting autographs and pictures with the players and we had many opportunities for that this year, we spent a lot of time hanging around the putting green and driving range. While we were there I found a new appreciation for taking advantage of the opportunity to be at a PGA Tour event and tried to learn anything that I could from watching the pros practice. During the pro-ams there were also groups where all the amateurs were women which was really cool to see!
Highlights of 2019 included checking out the new short game area and listening to Roger Cleveland and Pete Cowan discussing short game, meeting Tom Watson, and visiting the "Arnie Experience". Roger Cleveland and Pete Cowan both had amazing insights on the short game and listening to their conversation as well as talking to Mr. Cleveland after gave me some tips that I have enjoyed trying to implement into my game over the past few years. Tom Watson was there filming a promotional video for Drive, Chip, and Putt and I got to watch him chipping for a while. He was so consistent, every shot no matter if he hit it high or low he could get them all to stop within a few feet of the hole. My sister and I were able to meet Mr. Watson, get his signature, as well as a picture. My sister and I also were interviwed about Tiger Woods not playing the event (https://www.clickorlando.com/news/2019/03/05/tiger-woods-absence-will-be-felt-at-arnold-palmer-invitational-fans-say/). The "Arnie Experience" was a sort of museum/exhibit that had been put together made up of a video about Mr. Palmer's life, memorabilia from his life and career, as well as simulators where you were able to attempt some of his most famous shots. Seeing all of these things put into perspective just how much the King really did.
2020 was another incredible year at the event, I saw Annika again and got to see her play! The first day and a half were pretty typical (as far as being at a PGA Tour event goes :)). Tuesday afternoon kicked off a day and a half of dreams come true. Annika was taking pictures and filming videos at the short game area and when she was done she came over and talked to me for a few minutes. I said something about being NH Golfer Gal and her answering questions for me (check out that interview here... ) and she remembered me. The next day she played in the Pro-Am with Marc Leishman (one of my favorite PGA Tour players), Darius Rucker, and Michael Robichaud. I walked all 18 with their group and took countless photos and videos. I was able to talk to them all a little bit, and especially with Annika and Marc, when you get to talk to people you admire and look up to and they treat you like the most important thing in the moment it's such an incredible experience. Watching Annika play was a dream come true and I learned so much just watching her. While we were watching Annika's group playing we noticed that Nancy Lopez was sitting in the bleacher type thing on the side of one of the holes. My sister and I went over and said hi and asked for her autograph. It was cool to be able to see another one of the great female players of the game!
I have so many more incredible memories from the Arnold Palmer Invitational that I will cherish forever! To read the posts from all of these days check out the Arnold Palmer Invitational label. Wishing the best of luck to all the players out there this week. I hope to be back down there next year!
~NH Golfer Gal