With AP Photos.
AP Photo FLORL304, FLORL301
ORLANDO, Fla. – Doc Giffin, the longtime press secretary for Arnold Palmer, couldn’t make it to Bay Hill for the first Arnold Palmer Invitational without his boss. Attribute that to a late season snowstorm that kept him from leaving Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
He also missed out on the news Wednesday.
Alastair Johnston, the chairman of Arnold Palmer Enterprises, took part in a news conference in which he paid tribute to Giffin.
“Doc Giffin is somebody that has been highly respected in the media world for a long time,” Johnston said. “And to that extent – and he’s hearing this for the first time – from now until infinity and beyond, the facility in which you are sitting will be forever known as the Doc Giffin Media Center.”
Giffin was home in Latrobe, with the Golf Channel on since 9 a.m.
One problem – Golf Channel was doing a rerun of its “Morning Drive” show, occasionally breaking in to show live portions of Sam Saunders, Palmer’s grandson.
Giffin didn’t hear about the media center being named after him until called for reaction.
“Oh, really?” he said. “I’m thrilled – overwhelmed, really. The media center has been my life, not only with Arnold but as press secretary for the tour before that and as a newspaper guy.”
Giffin, who turned 88 last year, said he was disappointed not to be at Bay Hill and thought he might have a chance until he couldn’t get out Wednesday.
Johnston is among those who have not taken roll of players not in the Arnold Palmer Invitational this year. He doesn’t think it shows any disrespect to Palmer, and that over time, players will respect and pay tribute to him in many different ways.
He used Tiger Woods as an example.
Woods didn’t play Bay Hill last year while he was recovering from back surgeries. Johnston said Woods left a voice mail for Palmer that explained his absence, and then went on to talk about Palmer.
“It was one of the most meaningful monologues I’ve ever heard from anybody,” Johnston said. “It represented Tiger’s view on Arnold Palmer and what he has done for him, for the game of golf, and for a universe at large. That was something that I can tell you that Arnold listened to and listened to again and again. And by the way, it was a long message.
“And I can tell you this,” Johnston added, “that what Tiger said to Arnold at that point in time in paying tribute to him, was probably more meaningful to Arnold than the eight victories he won here.”
Rory on Muirfield
Muirfield voted to allow female members for the first time, which put the fabled Scottish links back on the British Open rotation.
Rory McIlroy said he wouldn’t have minded had Muirfield been left off the rotation for his own reasons, primarily because it is the only Open course where he has missed the cut. But he was in favor of allowing women, in a big way.
“In this day and age, where you’ve got women that are the leaders of certain industries and women that are heads of state and not to be able to join a golf course? I mean, it’s obscene. Like, it’s ridiculous,” McIlroy said.
“I still think that it got to this stage is horrendous. We’ll go back and we’ll play The Open Championship because they will let women members in, but every time I go to Muirfield now I won’t have a great taste in my mouth.”
He didn’t stop there. Someone pointed out to McIlroy that 123 votes – 20 percent – still went against letting women join the club.
“It’s horrendous,” McIlroy said. “I just don’t get it. So anyway, look, we’ll go back there for The Open Championship at some point, and I won’t be having many cups of tea with the members afterward.”
The claret jug usually travels to tournaments that offer a spot in the British Open as part of the International Final Qualifying series.
Golf’s oldest trophy was at Bay Hill this week for another reason – to honor one of its champions.
Arnold Palmer helped to put The Open back on the map for Americans when he went over to play in 1960 at St. Andrews. That’s when he created the notion for a modern version of the Grand Slam, consisting of the four professional majors. He was runner-up that year, but won the next two years at Royal Birkdale and Troon.
Americans tended to skip The Open in those days because prize money was down and at times didn’t cover the cost of travel.
“We have given a great deal of thought to how we can show our appreciation for Arnold’s immense contribution to The Open over many years and were pleased to provide the claret jug to form part of the exhibition celebrating his career at Bay Hill this week,” R&A chief Martin Slumbers said.
Also, the R&A has commissioned two commemorative champions’ medals of his victories in 1961 and 1962 and a special players’ badge, which it will present to the Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation later this year.
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