I think we all hate dwelling on the future of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in the year following The King's passing. But Palmer was a businessman who loved and nurtured this event. So discussing its past, present and future would presumably resonate with him even as he would undoubtedly be uncomfortable taking attention away from the players.
Jeff Babineau did a super job for Golfweek.com summing up Wednesday's ceremony at Bay Hill to remember The King, but also reflected on how far this event has come and where it may go without Palmer.
I loved this anecdote:
The API, which moved to Bay Hill from nearby Rio Pinar (Florida Citrus Open) in 1979, has come quite a long way. The purse has been bumped to $8.7 million, and this week’s winner not only will leave $1.56 million richer, but will receive a three-year PGA Tour exemption, not the usual two a winner grabs.
This week’s event will celebrate the everyday fan who connected with the blue-collar likes of Palmer, with large public grandstands now sitting up close to seven of the course’s greens.
It’s a far cry from Year 1 at the then-named Bay Hill Citrus Classic in 1979, when the makeshift grandstand that sat behind the 18th green was borrowed from nearby Boone High School.
That little nugget is a perfect reminder that is was events like the Bay Hill Citrus Classic, the Western Open, the Los Angeles Open, the Houston Open, the Bob Hope and on and on we can go with 10-12 events that built and stabilized the PGA Tour.
And with too much regularity, the focus of these events revolves around their weaker-than-normal fields, their strange new dates or their difficulty in attracting a sponsor. Nearly all have been adversely effected by many factors, but it's the creation of World Golf Championship events that consistently tops all side-effects.
We all understand the globalization of golf and market forces, but when those forces so adversely impact even an event nurtured by a modern sports legend. it's time for all current players and executives to take a hard look at the tour's purpose. Because if this is, as they say, about playing opportunities and charitable dollars, it's these core founding events that deserve to be treated as kings.