Arnold Palmer with his long-time assistant Doc Giffin in Palmer's office in Latrobe, Pa.
When Arnold Palmer died of heart complications in September, he left behind, among many things, large stacks of items and memorabilia on his desks in Latrobe, Pa., and Orlando that he had yet to autograph. Though 87 years old and more than 40 years removed from his last PGA Tour title, requests for a piece of the legendary golfer barely had waned.
Perhaps not surprisingly, interest in memorabilia associated with the seven-time major champion remains unchanged. For instance, the shoes Palmer wore during his first Masters victory in 1958 recently sold at auction for $66,000.
Fortunately for fans and supporters of Palmer, members of his legendary army, they won’t have to pony up big money to enjoy a piece of The King in the coming months.
Palmer memorabilia will be making extensive rounds this year at a number of golf courses and tournaments, including, in all likelihood, at all four of the major championships. Alastair Johnston, chairman of Arnold Palmer Enterprises, said requests for Palmer’s possessions have been pouring in with the purpose of honoring and remembering the late Hall of Fame golfer.
“This is driven by everyone who has ever had a connection to Arnold, be it a golf course, a tournament, an organization, wanting to do their own tribute to him,” Johnston said. “To try to satisfy everyone’s needs and desires as far as honoring Arnold is something that takes a great deal of time and consideration, and what we will end up doing is sort of mini exhibitions of certain items.”
First stop, naturally, is Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, where an extensive collection will be on display during the week of the 39th Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. Trophies, medals and other items from his office in his hometown of Latrobe, Pa., have been shipped to Florida. Also, his personal golf cart with his two large bags of his golf clubs will be positioned all week at the 16th tee, one of Palmer’s favorite places to watch golf during his tournament.
Also on display at Bay Hill, between the first and 10th tees, will be a 13-foot bronze statue of The King, which is being unveiled March 11. The statue, which depicts Palmer as he completes his powerful signature swing, is a replica of the one dedicated to Palmer in 2013 at his alma mater Wake Forest University. Two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange, a fellow Wake Forest golfer, will attend the unveiling ceremony.
In the coming months, memorabilia will make stops at Augusta National Golf Club in April, where Palmer won four Masters titles, and Atlanta Athletic Club in June, site of this year’s Arnold Palmer Cup. Johnston said he is in discussions with Augusta National as to what can be provided to the club. He could not speak for Augusta on the question of a Palmer tribute prior to the opening round of the Masters, but said, “I’d be surprised if they let the occasion go by,” without some kind of acknowledgment.
Johnston added that he has been engaged in conversations with the organizations that run the other three majors – the USGA, R&A and PGA of America – about their plans to honor Palmer. “Each has its own ideas on how to recognize Arnold for what he did for the game, and we will leave them to take their own counsel,” Johnston said. “Arnold has mementos from each of the majors that we can offer, and then there are the connections to golf clubs all around the world. We are happy to help as many places as we can because it obviously means a great deal to many people.”