PEBBLE BEACH — Three men were recognized Tuesday night for their charitable endeavors via the game of golf, but the guest of honor at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am reception was the late Arnold Palmer.
“Anytime your name is associated with Arnold Palmer, you feel a deep sense of gratitude. It’s what my father would have wanted for me, to be recognized for something that has Arnie’s name on it as opposed to any win on tour,” said Davis Love III, the World Golf Hall of Famer, who joined CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz and country-music artist Darius Rucker as recipients of the Arnie Award, presented to Golfers Who Give Back and reflecting the values and generosity of Arnold Palmer.
In association with the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, Golf Digest presented the Arnie Award for the seventh year. Golf Digest Editor in Chief Jerry Tarde presided over the brief ceremony that was a celebration of the life of Palmer as well as recognition of the three men who received the award, a bronze sculpture of the legendary golfer whose kindness and devotion to charity were as significant as his playing record.
Tarde introduced Love, 55, who in 2005 started his eponymous foundation, which hosts the RSM Classic, a fall event on the PGA Tour that has raised more than $9 million. Doug Mackenzie, the co-chairman of the board of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, presented the award to Rucker, 52, the three-time Grammy Award winner, who conducts charity events in Las Vegas and Nashville that benefit St. Jude Children’s Hospital among several causes he supports. Lastly, Sam Saunders, Palmer’s grandson and a participant in this week’s PGA Tour event, introduced Nantz, who two days earlier called the Super Bowl in Atlanta for CBS Sports.
In 2011, Nantz and his family opened the Nantz National Alzheimer Center at Houston Methodist Hospital, named after the broadcaster’s father, who succumbed to the disease in 2008. All three Arnie Award winner shared their thoughts of their respective relationships with Palmer, but Nantz brought his honor full circle back to Palmer by telling a story of how the legendary King personally counseled him on his charitable cause, the Alzheimer’s Center.
“I went to Arnold when I was considering how I would go about opening up the world’s greatest Alzheimer’s research center to find a way to defeat the enemy that took my dad’s life,” said Nantz, 59. “I said to Arnold, ‘I saw what you did with the Arnold and Winnie Palmer Hospital in Orlando. You knew my dad, you knew when I lost my dad and he no longer had the ability to counsel me how many times I turned to you. I want to ask you, I have this feeling in my heart that I want to build something with my father’s name on it. What should I do? Is it possible?’ And he said, ‘Jimmy, your dad is speaking to you. He’s right here, [taps his chest] he’s right in your heart, telling you what you should do.’ ”
Nantz summed up the evening best with these words about Palmer, who 20 years ago this summer was part of the group that purchased Pebble Beach: “There are so many in this room who had a personal relationship with Arnold Palmer. How could anyone make you feel like you were a part of his life? It was magic. It was real.”