The party is officially back

ORLANDO — Fans attending the Arnold Palmer Invitational this weekend in Orlando will quickly notice something as they stroll through the beautiful grounds — the party is back at Bay Hill.

Last year, Arnie’s Legendary Tournament only allowed a limited number of fans as we continued to do our best to weather a global pandemic.

This year, however, it’s back to a full house with huge stands around the par-3 17 and the iconic par-4 18, making the tournament feel like one of the special tournaments of the year.

But all is not so serious. Mastercard, the long-time title sponsor, has made sure the fans have fun at Bay Hill and nothing shows it more than the nifty shooting station just past the 18th tee. This week, some big-name Instagram influencers — Coach Rusty, Tisha Alyn and Tania Tare — put on a show for fans on Wednesday, and Justin Rose surprised a young fan by showing up and knocking a few punches with him. Fans will be able to try it out for themselves throughout the weekend.

That sense of fun is something not lost on the pros playing this week. Max Homa told golf week the day before the tournament that it’s important for the game to try new things and highlight the many different ways fans are consuming different forms of golf content on social media.

“Professional golf is an entertainment product,” Homa said. “Competition matters, of course, to us, but to everyone else, they just want to be entertained. Some people probably care who wins, some people more than others, but every person watching wants to be entertained. trick shots are entertaining, long drives are entertaining It’s why we’re here and it’s also why you have Coach Rusty or Tania coming out and banging shots – it’s to put on a show and give the people something to watch.

Rose agreed with Homa and said he knows Arnold Palmer would have liked to see all kinds of people having fun with trick shots in his tournament.

“He had a wit and a playfulness about him and I always thought that was cool,” Rose said of Palmer. “Whether it was having a beer with the boys in the bar or putting his arm around a young child and giving him encouragement, it felt like he was appealing to a wide spectrum.”

Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing Officer of Mastercard, said having a good time at Bay Hill is still one of his company’s top priorities.

“I think golf, in particular, isn’t seen as as energetic and engaging as, say, football. (Golf is) understated and subtle and stuff like that, but that’s the thought of the old school,” said Rajamannar, who added that Mastercard would help fans with other things like contactless payments at concession stands and souvenir shops around the course.

“We want to bring new energy to this tournament. Here, typically, that occasion is to celebrate that we all come together after two years of the pandemic, have a strong field, and help the community. And we want to have fun and that’s why we have all these things going on, like the rigged shooting station. We don’t need to have that serious, focused look here. We just want to have fun. »

It should be a fun weekend on the course with a ton of big names playing well.

Homa is one of those guys and he was quick to notice how great the scenes are around the 17th and 18th holes.

“The end of this golf course – the amphitheater looks great, which it should because again, the name that’s attached to this tournament is a big deal, the title sponsor is a big deal, and the golf course is tough and that’s a big deal.And add that Tiger Woods made a lot of amazing shots and highlights on this golf course so it should look like a big event.

Rose agreed.

“The PGA Tour has elevated this event to the top 3 or 4 most special events on the PGA Tour schedule and I think it has a rightful place there,” he said. “There’s something about this golf course and this venue that creates a bit of drama.”

Joseph K. Bennett