One of the most historic stops on the National PGA Tour is right here in Central Florida – a place that legendary golfer Arnold Palmer called home.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational is loved by the nation and is played yearly in our own backyard at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge. Since 1979, golfers from all over the country have come to play in this famous contest organized by the Professional Golfers’ Association of America. Originally called the Bay Hill Invitational, the tournament name was changed to honor Palmer in 2007.
With the Arnold Palmer Invitational coming to town next month, we take a look back though the history of this treasured Central Florida event.
“Your hometown is not where you’re from, it’s who you are.” – Arnold Palmer
The first decade of the tournament produced many prestigious names in golf. The first victor was Bob Byman, and it was his first and only win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Winners like Lakeland’s Andy Bean, Fuzzy Zoeller and Paul Azinger followed and continued to raise the tournament’s prestige to what it is today. The course design was revamped, which modified the par from 71 to 72.
The 1990 PGA Tour rookie of the year, Robert Gamez, gained the title with an eagle at the 18th hole in the last round of that year’s playoff. After many unrecognized attempts in the invitational, Loren Roberts became one of the most memorable players of the 1990s. He set a tournament record with two back-to-back wins in 1994 and 1995.
The early 2000s has one overall theme: Tiger Woods. The young newcomer made a name for himself when he won for the fourth straight year in 2003. He then claimed back-to-back first place titles in 2008 and 2009. Woods has the second most PGA Tour wins with 79, trailing the late Sam Snead (82), and holds the title for most career earnings of any golfer in PGA Tour history.
Tiger Woods’ records continued to spill into this era with two more wins in 2012 and 2013, giving him a historic eight wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. This decade also gave way to some international winners, including South African native Ernie Elis in 2010 and Australian victor Marc Leishman in 2017.
What will this new decade bring for the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard? We’ll have to see when the first tournament of the 2020s takes place from Monday, March 2, to Sunday, March 8. The 2020 competition will kick off with Arnie’s March Against Children’s Cancer on March 3, and the week will include a variety of special events in addition to world-renowned golf.