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Rory McIlroy while accepting Arnie Award: ‘There was no bigger role model in golf for giving than Arnold Palmer’

January 31, 2024

Rory McIlroy during a sit-down interview Tuesday at Pebble Beach, after accepting the Arnie Award.

PEBBLE BEACH — Rory McIlroy believes that golf possesses a natural pay-it-forward element that is a calling for the game’s most successful players, and perhaps no one responded better throughout his career than Arnold Palmer.

“If you think of the values he represented and the way he went about trying to help people,” McIlroy said, “Arnold did about as much as anyone could to give back, to do things the right way. There was a lot of integrity there, a sincerity that was really inspirational and still touches us.”

That inspiration certainly touched McIlroy, the four-time major winner, who in a short time has distinguished himself as a golfer who gives back and tries to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. On Tuesday night at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, McIlroy, 34, was presented with the Arnie Award, and the native of Northern Ireland got emotional just thinking about being associated with the legendary Palmer in terms of trying to help others.

“It’s pretty cool. It’s almost overwhelming,” McIlroy told Golf Digest. “I’ve talked about this, how golf has a really good way of creating role models, and there was no bigger role model in golf for giving than Arnold Palmer.”


Rory McIlroy with Jerry Tarde, Golf Digest editor-in-chief and global head of strategy and content for Discovery Golf.

In partnership with the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation and the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, Golf Digest presented the Arnie Award for the 12th consecutive year. Jerry Tarde, Golf Digest editor-in-chief and global head of strategy and content, Discovery Golf, presented McIlroy with a bronze sculpture of Palmer at a reception at the Beach Club at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Concurrently, in recognition of Arnold Palmer’s values, compassion and generosity, Golf Digest donated $50,000 to the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and $50,000 to the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation.

The No. 2 golfer in the world, McIlroy is the 19th recipient of the Arnie Award, recognized not only for his station as one of the most earnest stewards in golf, but more so for his charitable efforts, including his Rory Foundation, which since 2013 has supported children's charities.

During a sit-down interview with Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis, McIlroy told the audience of 200—many of them amateurs competing in this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am but which also included former Masters champion Adam Scott—that “golf was very lucky” to have Palmer, “and probably is still very lucky to have him.” In other words, Palmer spirit still impacts many people.

As for the game itself, McIlroy is grateful for the opportunities that he has to be successful while also making a difference.

“I think inherently golf lends itself to giving and charitable pursuits, and I think growing up within the game that has sort of [been] instilled in you, whether it's some of these great programs, youth on course, First Tee program, all these things, it is a way to try to pay it forward,” he said. “I've always thought that golf has been so good to me, unbelievably good to a kid from Northern Ireland and whose parents didn't have a lot of money to be able to do what I've done and come over here to this country and to make a name for myself. I think it's only, it's the right thing to do to give back. And golf is giving me the platform to be able to give back in some way.”