It’s going to be a proud Masters buildup for the golf fans of Canada. Three Canadian golfers have already qualified to play at Augusta National next month, including 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir, who Nick Price recently named a Presidents Cup vice captains for the International Team. Adam Hadwin qualified on Sunday with a win in the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort outside Tampa, joining another PGA Tour winner, Mackenzie Hughes (the RSM Classic in Sea Island last fall). “We’re one shy of a foursome,” Hughes told me at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Hadwin’s father, Gerry, is director of golf at Ledgeview Golf Club in the town of Abbotsford where Adam grew up competing against another Canuck tour player, Nick Taylor. “They love to see the Maple Leaf up here,” Gerry said, noting the Tweet posted by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Three of Arnold Palmer’s closest friends—Dick Ferris, Bruce Walters and Billy Damron—warming up for the Bay Hill Shootout the other day, knowing the fourth member of their favorite foursome was no longer around to join them. The Shootout was fabled, a daily money game at Bay Hill for all comers willing to drop $40 a player in a pot, with three of four scores counting per team each hole. Palmer pushed participation, including from some of the tour pros that lived in the neighborhood, like Greg Norman, Ian Baker-Finch and Payne Stewart. The Shark told me how the most fun was after the golf, in the Bay Hill locker room, where Arnold would hold court and decide who made the inner circle.
Story after story at Bay Hill of how Arnold Palmer connected with people in golf, like Arnie Cunningham, the quintessential tour rep attending his 32nd straight API. Cunningham met Palmer in the True Temper truck at Bay Hill in 1986 and told him the story of his father, a muni-course golfer from Nashville, naming him after Palmer. Cunningham could remember the vice-grip handshake and Palmer’s first question, which was, “What’s your middle name?” It wasn’t Daniel, but Palmer never forgot, always pointing to Cunningham and saying, “He was named after me.”