Arnold Palmer Invitational needs a new, more fitting name: The Arnie

By Mike Bianchi
Published on
Arnold Palmer Invitational needs a new, more fitting name: The Arnie

Two words: The Arnie.
That's it. Nothing else.
Just ... The Arnie.
It is time for professional golf's muckety-mucks to change the formal, button-down name of Orlando's PGA Tour stop from the Arnold Palmer Invitational to simply The Arnie. It is a name that evokes a vision of what this tournament is really about – a friendly, laid-back, open-collar event held in the middle of an Orlando neighborhood and hosted by a generous and beloved man who brought golf to the masses.
Arnie. Not Arnold, Arnie.
It is a name that resonates worldwide. It is a name you'll hear a zillion times during the tournament that bears his name. Even today when Palmer, now 85, is seen on the grounds at his Bay Hill Club & Lodge, golf fans will yell out. "Hey, Arnie!" ... "We love you, Arnie!" ... "My daughter was born in your hospital, Arnie!" And Arnie will give them his famous two thumbs-up, just as he did all those years ago when his legion of fans – Arnie's Army – raucously rooted on the most charismatic figure in golf history.
Back then, golf was considered a stodgy country-club sport and a hoity-toity rich man's game, but Arnie brought it to the common people. With a cigarette dangling from his mouth and an unorthodox golf swing, he was one of them. Joe and Minnie Sixpack absolutely adored him. Minnie loved him because of his rugged good lucks and muscled physique; Joe loved him because he could envision Arnie plopping down on the bar stool next to him at the 19th hole.
And we love him here in Central Florida because, well, he loves us. And always has. In fact, it was love at first sight when Arnie first laid eyes on Orlando. Long before the NBA or the MLS and the fancy-smancy downtown venues, Arnie knew this sleepy little town would someday become the thriving, vibrant City Beautiful.
"This was all orange groves and two-lane roads when we started," Arnie remembered Wednesday during his pre-tournament news conference. "We were here before Disney."
Arnie then told the story of the first time he came to Orlando. He was a sophomore golfer at Wake Forest in 1948 when his team came to town for a match against Rollins College. Arnie was so taken aback by the beauty of the area (and the girls) that he considered transferring to Rollins. Even though he ended up staying at Wake, he knew someday he would return to Orlando.
That day came in 1965 when the original developers of Bay Hill, invited Arnie, Jack Nicklaus, Don Cherry and Dave Ragan to town for an exhibition match to promote their new course. Arnie fell in love with Orlando all over again that day. He routed everybody in the exhibition by shooting a 66 – seven strokes better than the second-place Nicklaus.
Five years later, Arnie would end up buying Bay Hill.
And the rest is not only Central Florida sports history; it's Florida sports history.
Arnie not only brought golf to the masses; he brought it to the Sunshine State. He turned Florida into the golf capital of the world.
When Arnie moved here and made Bay Hill famous, other professional golfers began moving here. Other golf enclaves sprung up at Isleworth and Lake Nona. Nicklaus moved to Jupiter. PGA Tour headquarters moved to Ponte Vedra Beach. PGA of America headquarters moved to Palm Beach. LPGA headquarters moved to Daytona Beach.
Unlike our city's other sports superstars (see Shaq, Dwight and Tiger) who came and went, Arnie came and stayed. He invested in Orlando, and he contributed to Orlando. He helped build one of the premier events on the PGA Tour here and, more importantly, he helped build one of the most renowned children's hospitals in the world here.
"Arnie's aperture for generosity is wide open," said Tom Ridge, a longtime friend and the former United States Director of Homeland Security.
Ridge is in town this week to attend the tournament at Bay Hill – a tournament named after the man we all know and love.
Except we don't know that man as Arnold Palmer; we know him simply as Arnie.
The Arnie.
A cool new name to reflect the coolest man the game has ever known.
This article was written by Mike Bianchi from The Orlando Sentinel and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.