The 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational will feature some of the best PGA Tour golfers gathered in central Florida. One of the premier golf resorts in the state is owned by the legendary golfer. Arnold Palmer's charities and foundations benefit from the annual golf tournament as one of the oldest PGA events on the schedule.
Here's a look at the history of the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in addition to the history of the tournament that bears Palmer's name.
Bay Hill opened for business in October 1961 after a group of men from Tennessee invested in property surrounding the Orlando, Fla., area. At the behest of the owners, Palmer and fellow golf pros Jack Nicklaus, Don Cherry and Dave Ragan played an exhibition match. Palmer won by seven strokes with a 66 and eventually bought the resort in 1976. He had been using Bay Hill as a winter retreat ever since the exhibition match.
Orlando's original stop on the PGA Tour was played at Rio Pinar Country Club in 1966. Palmer won the event five years later. In 1979, the Florida Citrus Open moves to Bay Hill and was open to a full field of golfers. Five years after that, the PGA made the Bay Hill event invitation-only, reducing the size of the field.
Ever since 2004 the Arnold Palmer Invitational has had the legendary golfer's name attached to it. Like Palmer himself, there have been several fantastic winners of the event. Payne Stewart set the tournament record of 264 when he won the tournament in 1987. Multiple winners include Tom Kite, Loren Roberts and Ernie Els who have each won the Bay Hill Invitational twice.
The most dominant winner in the history of the Bay Hill tour stop has been, by far, Tiger Woods. Woods's 11-stroke victory in 2003 was a record for the event. That same year he became just the third pro golfer to win the same tournament four years in a row. Woods returned to his winning ways with consecutive victories in 2008 and 2009.
Martin Laird became the first European to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2011. There will be nine former champions who tee it up for the 2012 event.
William Browning has covered sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network including golf and local golf courses in southwest Missouri. He currently resides in Branson, Mo.
- Arnold Palmer
- Arnold Palmer Invitational
- Bay Hill Club and Lodge
- PGA Tour