AUGUSTA, GEORGIA – It will be different Thursday at 7:40 a.m. on the first tee at Augusta National because Arnold Palmer won’t be there.
But he will be there in many ways.
Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player are scheduled to hit the ceremonial opening tee shots but before that happens, Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne will take a moment to honor Palmer, who embodied The Masters and the game perhaps better than anyone ever.
On Thursday, patrons will receive a special “Arnie’s Army” badge to wear to celebrate the memory of the four-time Masters champion who passed away last fall. The tournament is also making a contribution to the Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation.
To honor Arnold Palmer, at tomorrow's Honorary Starters Ceremony every patron on the grounds will receive this Commemorative Badge. pic.twitter.com/9l7cA9saQe
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 5, 2017
“I think tomorrow will no doubt be an emotional goodbye, but at the same time, an even more powerful thank you to the man we dearly love,” Payne said.
Nicklaus took a few minutes earlier this week to reminisce again about Palmer, who was both his rival and his friend.
“I don’t know how many people realized how much Arnold took me under his wing when I was 20, 22 years old,” Nicklaus said. “When I first started on the Tour, Arnold was very good to me. In spite of having a gallery that wasn’t so good to me, he was never – I’ve said many times, I’ve never – I may have had to fight Arnold’s gallery but I never had to fight him.
“He was very kind to a young guy starting out. I appreciated it very much. We had a lot of great times together. We travelled a lot together. We did a lot of things.
“He taught me a lot of things of how to handle things. One of the things early on, probably maybe first, second, third tournament in on the Tour, I asked him, I said, ‘What do you do after a round?’
“He said, ‘I always drop the sponsor a note.’ I said, ‘I think that’s a good thing to do.’
“So for my first year, my first couple tournaments, I don’t think I ever failed to drop a sponsor a note after a tournament, thank you for the tournament and thanking the people, the volunteers and so forth and so on.
“And my later years of playing, part of that habit probably got relaxed by a lot of people, because I’ve had a lot of sponsors come to me and say, ‘Jack, every year I get a letter from you. I don’t get one from anybody else.’
“And that came from Arnold.”