GREENSBORO, N.C. – Widely considered the most important figure in golf, Arnold Palmer played a significant role in Wyndham Championship history, and today, a plaque in his memory was unveiled on the tournament’s “Wall of Champions” behind the ninth green at Sedgefield Country Club with Palmer’s grandson, Sam Saunders in attendance, the tournament announced today. Official tournament play in the 78th annual Wyndham Championship begins Thursday at Sedgefield Country Club.
The plaque reads: “Widely considered the most important figure in golf and one of the most influential players in Wyndham Championship history, Arnold Palmer had five top-five appearances in 13 appearances at Sedgefield. In 1963, Palmer established the Buddy Worsham Memorial Scholarship at Wake Forest University in memory of his friend & teammate who dies in a car accident while in school. Since that time, scholarship winners have been a consistent presence in the tournament field, always with great appreciation and admiration for Arnie.”
Palmer recorded five top-five finishes in 13 appearances at Sedgefield Country Club. His contributions to the Wyndham Championship, then known as the Greater Greensboro Open, went far beyond what he accomplished on the Donald Ross gem at Sedgefield. He helped the tournament in securing celebrities to play in the Wednesday pro-am and once cashed in a personal favor to bring Bob Hope to town. And in more recent years, when the Wyndham Championship returned to Sedgefield after a 31-year absence, Palmer participated in a special opening ceremony. The World Golf Hall of Famer agreed to appear at the tournament’s first “champion’s banquet” in 1965, and the story of his arrival is one of the greatest in the Wyndham Championship’s 78-year history as described by retired Greensboro News & Record sports editor, Irwin Smallwood.
“The old Plantation Club was packed to the rafters with 800 or more enthusiastic fans, and Palmer arrived right on time — literally, about 7 p.m. Thing is, though he was in Greensboro, he was circling high above in his airplane but could not land because of bad weather. The late Bill Black, the brains behind the affair, was beside himself. Palmer could land in Charlotte, it turned out, and, luckily, Mayor Jim Melvin had friends in the Highway Patrol. At Melvin’s pleading, the Patrol picked him up at the Charlotte airport and raced him to the Plantation in 45 minutes flat. When Palmer walked into the place about 9:30, along with his Patrol escort, the nice patrolmen got a bigger ovation than Palmer from a crowd that by then was well-saturated from the long wait.”
One of the reasons the tournament was so important to Palmer was his relationship with his nearby alma mater, Wake Forest University, where he attended college and began making a name for himself. After the Atlantic Coast Conference was created in 1953, Palmer won the first ACC golf tournament a year later, and his career had begun. Palmer’s roommate, Buddy Worsham, was the reason Palmer attended Wake Forest. Worsham was a highly-touted recruit who said he would only accept the Wake Forest scholarship he was offered if his friend could come with him. That friend was Arnold Palmer.
Worsham once asked Palmer to join him for a trip to Durham for a dance; Palmer declined and went to a movie instead. Worsham was killed in a car accident on the way back from the dance. In 1963, Palmer endowed the Buddy Worsham Memorial Scholarship in memory of his best friend. It was the first of eight scholarships Palmer endowed at Wake Forest; it was Palmer’s love for the Greater Greensboro Open that led his being able to “give back” to his alma mater. Among the Buddy Worsham Memorial Scholarship winners are Wyndham Championship winners Lanny Wadkins and Webb Simpson; Jay Haas and his son, Bill, also played on the prestigious scholarship.
“Arnold Palmer was the right guy at the right place at the right time for not only the PGA TOUR but also the growth of the game worldwide,” tournament director Mark Brazil said. “Besides Orlando and Latrobe, Pa., his history here in the Triad is probably as strong as anywhere else in the world for two reasons: the relationship he had with the old GGO now the Wyndham Championship and his incredibly deep relationship with Wake Forest. It’s impossible not to associate Wake Forest with Mr. Palmer – everybody does. Whether it’s through Wake Forest or the old GGO, there was a real love affair between Mr. Palmer and the Triad, and it was deep because he played here 13 times and almost won several times. During the 60s and 70s, he was our guy; he was our hero. He’ll be missed, but his legacy will live forever.”
Palmer was a three-time member of the Wake Forest board of trustees, the recipient of an honorary doctorate, and excellent fundraiser for the university and a generous benefactor. In addition to the eight scholarships, Palmer donated Wake Forest’s golf practice facility on the Winston-Salem, N.C. campus.
About the Wyndham Championship:
Contested annually on the Donald Ross-designed course at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., the Wyndham Championship was founded in 1938 and is the sixth-oldest event on the PGA TOUR excluding the Majors. Tickets are available at http://wyndhamchampionship.com, www.Ticketmaster.com or through the tournament office at (336) 379-1570. The tournament thanks title sponsor Wyndham Worldwide, presenting sponsor BB&T and Premier Partners, Cadillac, Harris Teeter, Lincoln Financial, McConnell Golf, Sunbrella® and VF Corporation for their continued support. Additional tournament information and sponsorship information are available at wyndhamchampionship.com. Stay connected with the Wyndham Championship through its social media channels, including the Wyndham Championship Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, Flickr and YouTube.
About Wyndham Worldwide:
Wyndham Worldwide (NYSE: WYN) is one of the largest global hospitality companies, providing travelers with access to a collection of trusted hospitality brands in hotels, vacation ownership, and unique accommodations including vacation exchange, holiday parks, and managed home rentals. With a collective inventory of nearly 130,000 places to stay across more than 110 countries on six continents, Wyndham Worldwide and its 38,000 associates welcome people to experience travel the way they want. This is enhanced by Wyndham Rewards®, the Company’s re-imagined guest loyalty program across its businesses, which is making it simpler for members to earn more rewards and redeem their points faster. For more information, please visit www.wyndhamworldwide.com.
# # #