ORLANDO, FLORIDA | The reminders of Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill Club and Lodge are almost everywhere.
It’s not just a place Palmer owned and hosted what is now the Arnold Palmer Invitational for years before his passing in the fall of 2016. He was a part of the place, a piece of the scenery and the emotional center of a spot where he and golf lived together.
On Thursday afternoon, Palmer’s grandson Sam Saunders stood under one of the many red, white, green and yellow umbrellas outside the tournament scoring trailer, his grandfather’s famous logo brought to life. A few feet away, Palmer’s golf bag stood at the edge of the practice tee where he hit balls for all those years, one more memory trigger at a place full of them.
Saunders knows all about them. As a 14-year-old, he played as a marker alongside Peter Jacobsen in the final round of the 2002 Bay Hill Invitational with his grandfather walking with them that Sunday morning.
Now 31, Saunders has become, in some ways, the face of his grandfather’s event. He is the unofficial host even as he goes about the business of trying to turn another corner in his professional career. Saunders has been a good player but with nine top-10 finishes in 134 PGA Tour starts, he’s been a working man in a game of stars.
As much as Saunders would like this to be just another work week, it can’t be. It fell to Saunders to lead a practice tee celebration on Wednesday, kicking off the tournament with tour players doing their best to im...
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