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PGA Tour’s Walt Disney World® Golf Classic

Two things happened in 1971 that would change Orlando, Florida, forever. The first would be the opening of the Walt Disney World® Resort, the most ambitious resort theme park destination project of its kind.

The second would be the purchase of a private golf club just a few miles down the road, Bay Hill Club and Lodge, and the new owner, Arnold Palmer. We all of course know the role Arnold Palmer played in the growth and success of the PGA Tour, the game of golf, and sport marketing globally. What many people do not know is his impact on Walt Disney World® Golf.

In September 1971, with just a few weeks remaining before the opening of the Walt Disney World® Resort, Director of Marketing, Sandy Quinn, was asked to setup a PGA Tour golf tournament at the Walt Disney World® Golf courses. Quinn had no experience in setting up an event like this, but he knew who Arnold Palmer was, and he knew he had just moved into the neighborhood.

Mickey Goofy Arnold Palmer Puttting Green optimized 2

“I sent someone over to see if Arnold would come by and at least talk to us about it,” Quinn said. “Well, he came over, and we’re starting to talk, and then all of a sudden he looks off in the distance, curious about something. I walk over and see he’s watching the train engineers put the new cars on the monorail. Right away Arnold gets interested, and wants to know if he can take a ride. Well as luck would have it, the engineers were running a full scale test on the whole system that day — and they were delighted to have Arnie as their first passenger.”

We all said a small prayer, hoping the thing wouldn’t break down while he was in it! When he was through, we started talking a little about a golf tournament. ‘No problem’, he says, ‘Sign me up. I’ll call a few friends.’ And that was it. In no time at all, we had a full- fledged PGA golf tournament.

And as they say….the rest is history! The Walt Disney World® Open Invitational was held in December of that year and was won by Arnold’s good friend and most fierce competitor, Jack Nicklaus. Eight years later, Arnold would bring another PGA Tour event to Orlando when he convinced the PGA Tour to move what was then the Florida Citrus Open to his Bay Hill Club and Lodge, an event now known better as the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

As fate would have it, forty years later these two iconic partners would come together again. In 2011 the Walt Disney World® Resort and Arnold Palmer Golf Management signed a 20-year strategic alliance to operate and manage the golf properties at Walt Disney World®.

On June 10th, 2013 the Arnold Palmer Course Design team began a 6 month journey redesigning Disney’s Palm Golf Course. This classic tournament course was re-imagined by Arnold Palmer and his design team, and reopened in December 2013. Disney’s Palm Golf Course was awarded the Renovation of the Year in the resort course category by Golf Inc. Magazine the following year.

While many Disney guests have enjoyed the championship caliber courses over the decades since 1971, few knew how the relationship all began with Arnold Palmer’s curiosity of the monorail. Please see below the illustrious list of past winners of this event, 1971 – 2012.

Past Winners

  • Year Winner Country Score To Par Margin of Victory Runner(s) Up
    Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic
    2012 Charlie Beljan United States 272 -16 2 strokes Matt Every
    Robert Garrigus
    2011 Luke Donald England 271 -17 2 strokes Justin Leonard
    Children’s Miracle Network Classic
    2010 Robert Garrigus United States 267 -21 3 strokes Roland Thatcher
  • Year Winner Country Score To Par Margin of Victory Runner(s) Up
    Children’s Miracle Network presented by Wal-Mart
    2009 Stephen Ames Canada 270 -18 Playoff Justin Leonard
    George McNeill
    2008 Davis Love III United States 263 -25 1 stroke Tommy Gainey
    2007 Stephen Ames Canada 271 -17 1 stroke Tim Clark
    Funai Classic at the Walt Disney World Resort
    2006 Joe Durant United States 263 -25 4 strokes Frank Lickliter
    Troy Matteson
    2005 Lucas Glover United States 265 -23 1 stroke Tom Pernice, Jr.
    2004 Ryan Palmer United States 266 -22 3 strokes Briny Baird
    Vijay Singh
    2003 Vijay Singh Fiji 265 -23 4 strokes Stewart Cink
    Scott Verplank
    Tiger Woods
    Disney Golf Classic
    2002 Bob Burns United States 263 -25 1 stroke Chris DiMarco
    National Car Rental Golf Classic Disney
    2001 Jose Coceres Argentina 265 -23 1 stroke Davis Love III
    2000 Duffy Waldorf United States 262 -26 1 stroke Steve Flesch
  • Year Winner Country Score To Par Margin of Victory Runner(s) Up
    National Car Rental Golf Classic Disney
    1999 Tiger Woods United States 271 -17 1 stroke Ernie Els
    1998 John Huston United States 272 -16 1 stroke Davis Love III
    Walt Dinsey World / Oldsmobile Classic
    1997 David Duval United States 270 -18 Playoff Dan Forsman
    1996 Tiger Woods United States 267 -21 1 stroke Payne Stewart
    1995 Brad Bryant United States 198 -18 1 stroke Hal Sutton
    Ted Tryba
    1994 Rick Fehr United States 269 -19 2 strokes Craig Stadlier
    Fuzzy Zoeller
    1993 Jeff Maggert United States 265 -23 3 strokes Greg Kraft
    1992 John Huston United States 262 -26 3 strokes Mark O’Meara
    1991 Mark O’Meara United States 267 -21 1 stroke David Peoples
    1990 Tim Simpson United States 264 -24 1 stroke John Mahaffey
  • Year Winner Country Score To Par Margin of Victory Runner(s) Up
    Walt Dinsey World / Oldsmobile Classic
    1989 Tim Simpson United States 272 -16 1 stroke Donnie Hammond
    1988 Bob Lohr United States 263 -25 Playoff Chip Beck
    1987 Larry Nelson United States 268 -20 2 stroke Morris Hatalsky
    Mark O’Meara
    1986 Raymond Floyd United States 275 -13 Playoff Lon Hinkle
    Mike Sullivan
    1985 Lanny Wadkins United States 267 -21 1 stroke Mike Donald
    Scott Hoch
    Walt Disney World Golf Classic
    1984 Larry Nelson United States 266 -22 1 stroke Hubert Green
    1983 Payne Stewart United States 269 -19 2 strokes Nick Faldo
    Mark McCumber
    1982 Hal Sutton United States 269 -19 Playoff Bill Britton
    Walt Disney World National Team Championship
    1981 Vance Heafner & Mike Holland United States        
    1980 Danny Edwards & David Edwards United States        
  • Year Winner Country Score To Par Margin of Victory Runner(s) Up
    Walt Disney World National Team Championship
    1979 George Burns & Ben Crenshaw United States        
    1978 Wayne Levi & Bob Mann United States        
    1977 Gibby Gilbert & Grier Jones United States        
    1976 Woody Blackbun & Billy Kratzert United States        
    1975 Jim Colbert & Dean Refram United States        
    1974 Hubert Green & Mac McLendon United States        
    Walt Disney World Golf Classic
    1973 Jack Nicklaus United Staets 275 -13 1 stroke Mason Rudolph
    Walt Disney World Open Invitational
    1972 Jack Nicklaus United States 267 -21 9 strokes Jim Dent
    Bobby Mitchell
    Larry Wood
    1971 Jack Nicklaus United States 273 -15 3 strokes Deane Beman

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Arnold Palmer Golf Management operates Walt Disney World® Golf courses in the true spirit of Arnold Palmer – with pride, consideration and honor. Our team works diligently to create great club and golf experiences for every member, and every guest, every day.
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