The tournament that represents "what is special about the PGA TOUR," according to Commissioner Tim Finchem, will have the wherewithal to continue on its path of ever-increasing improvement and importance after the announcement Wednesday that MasterCard has extended its sponsorship of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard through 2016.
"Throughout the first nine years of our partnership, MasterCard has helped raise more than $1.8 million that have directly impacted Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children," said Palmer, who began this event at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge in 1979 and nurtured it into a top-shelf golf tournament. "I am looking forward to continuing our partnership over the next four years to deliver a world-class event for our players and fans while continuing to support the hospitals."
Support for the hospitals could increase if one of a particular group of players wins this week. MasterCard has pledged to donate an additional $200,000 to the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies if one of MasterCard's golf ambassadors wins the tournament. Those ambassadors are Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Brandt Snedeker and Camilo Villegas.
"I've said many times, there are lots of sponsorship opportunities that MasterCard is presented with around the world," said Chris McWilton, President, U.S. Markets, MasterCard. "But this one, it's a very easy decision to make, to continue the relationship with Mr. Palmer Bay Hill, and the TOUR around this event because of the great things it does for the hospital."
There are many great things that the tournament does for charity and the community, but McWilton conceded that the tournament host himself is a major factor in MasterCard's decision to continue a sponsorship begun in 2004.
"Obviously, Mr. Palmer is a legend, and what he brings to us as a brand is very important to us. We talk about MasterCard being at the heart of commerce. So it's not just about the monetary aspects of our business, but it's about doing things to make people's lives better and to make commerce easier and to have some emotion behind it. So if you know Mr. Palmer, as I've got to know him over the past five years, there's definitely a heart on this. It's not just a commercial venture. It's not just about making money. It's about the spirit that he brings to this experience."
Finchem couldn't have agreed more.
"Fundamentally, this is Arnold Palmer's tournament. He has put his heart and soul into it for decades," Finchem said. "And as such, it takes its place every year at the very top of what is special about the PGA TOUR as an invitational event, and the event of the man who is probably more impactful on where the PGA TOUR is today than anybody in history.
"I think all of the players, all of tournament, all of our sponsors and our charities are indebted to him for what he's meant to the game and what he's meant to the PGA TOUR."