ORLANDO, Fla. (March 3, 2021) – The “special of the week” is front and center on Central Florida’s March sports menu. ‘Tis the time for golf fans and the greater Orlando community to don their brightest pastels and sip on those Arnold Palmers, garnished with a colorful umbrella on top.
This week’s 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard urges its players and fans to embrace renowned golfing tradition while following many of the popular tenets of Mr. Palmer: Play boldly. Live wisely. Act kindly. Enjoy safely.
The 56th edition of the Arnold Palmer Invitational – the 43rd playing at Bay Hill – blends the traditional and familiar, including the return of fans to the PGA TOUR’s current 2020-21 season, with a new beginning for first-year tournament director Joie Chitwood III, who is ecstatic at the prospect of immersing himself into the history and fabric of the region’s most famed golf tournament.
“When you think about signature events in Orlando, you have to put the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at the top of the list,” Chitwood said. “I do have my original ticket stub from the 1992 Nestle Invitational at Bay Hill, so I have been a fan of this event and I have been here before.
“We have got (25) of the top 50 world-ranked players here. Probably more excited that we get to, kind of, lead by example and have (fans) on-site. You could see the difference when you did have fans on-site at (February’s Waste Management) Phoenix (Open), and we hope for the same energy and emotion that we'll see when these guys put on a great show here.”
Sam Saunders, Mr. Palmer’s grandson, is in Orlando this week. Although he won’t be playing (he is recovering from a broken leg), there is no place he’d rather be.
“I'm so fortunate to have this role,” Saunders said of his family’s event. “My grandfather, he meant so much to so many people, but he set something up here that was really unique. The legacy, to carry it on is, you know, what my mother, Amy Saunders, has done, the amount of time and work and energy that she has put into it over the last 10, 15 years.
“It's nice in a way to be able to focus this week and really observe everything that's happening from a different perspective and talk to all the players, get their feedback and have a singular focus on trying to make sure this event is continuing to be the best that it can. And to see the commitment of those (13 top-25 ranked) guys that are here, it means the world to me. I feel like, for a large number of them, it's out of respect to what my granddad was able to do to provide them all with the careers we have been able to have today.”
In coordination with local health officials and the PGA TOUR, spectator attendance at the Arnold Palmer Invitational will be limited to 25 percent of normal capacity, with fans on site during competition rounds only (Thursday-Sunday).
The Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard will follow the PGA TOUR fan safety guide to promote a safe environment and quality experience on the golf course.
All proceeds from the Arnold Palmer Invitational benefit the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation, which supports efforts on behalf of children’s health, youth character development, and nature-focused wellness.