On Thursday morning in Augusta, Georgia, golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player stepped up to the first tee of Augusta National to kick off the 81st Masters, but something was missing from the ceremonial opening tee shot.
That, of course, would be Arnold Palmer, one of the titans of the game of golf who passed away this past year at the age of 87.
Palmer had been a first-tee fixture since 2006 and was joined by Nicklaus in 2010 and by Player in 2012.
In memory of Palmer, patrons in attendance for the ceremony wore pins that said “I am a member of Arnie’s Army,” an homage to the nickname given to Palmer’s legion of fans during his playing days.
According to Golfweek.com, Palmer’s widow, Kit, was in attendance as well alongside Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, who hosted the ceremony.
“It is a wonderful but in one respect difficult day,” Payne said, per Golfweek.com. “For the first time in many, many decades, someone is obviously missing from the first tee here at Augusta National and the Masters. The almost unbearable sadness we all feel at the passing of Arnold Palmer is surpassed only by the love and affection for him, which will forever reside in our hearts.”
A moment of silence was also held in memory of Palmer.
Palmer was a four-time Masters champion, winning the tournament in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964 and even more impressively, Palmer competed in the tournament up until 2004 at the age of 75.