Zalatoris celebrates Arnold Palmer at the 2024 Invitational

Wake Forest grad's connection with the legend is tight

Will Zalatoris prepares for the 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational on the putting green. (Photo by Brandon Brown/Toronto Observer) 

BAY HILL, Fla. –  Will Zalatoris has a connection with The King that transcends the game of golf.

Even without having met the legendary Arnold Palmer, Zalatoris’ feelings towards him are more personal than many of his opponents.

Ahead of the 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, the San Francisco native reflected on his connection with the tournament namesake.

“Even though I never got to meet him, the guy’s meant a lot to me personally and my career and led me to Wake Forest,” said the 27-year old at his press conference on Tuesday morning.

Zalatoris attended Wake Forest where he became a member of the U.S. Walker Cup team in 2017, and was named ACC Player of the Year that same season. 

The 34th ranked golfer in the world credited Palmer for making it easy to choose his alma mater as his college destination.

“I always tell people that when I got offered the Arnold Palmer Scholarship to go to Wake Forest that my decision was kind of made for me at that point,” he said.

Zalatoris added that it was at Wake Forest where he would eventually meet his wife Caitlin, adding to the emotions of competing in Palmer’s tournament.

While there is a personal sentiment about playing in the event, there is also an expectation that the conditions will get more difficult as the week goes on.

“This is a pretty tough venue in general, and normally it’s green on Thursday and brown by Sunday.” Zalatoris said regarding the typical week at Bay Hill, where he has made three previous appearances.

He added “everyone’s always kind of joking about how Arnie’s smiling from heaven watching the carnage,” which has become a running theme over the years.

This year’s edition of the Arnold Palmer Invitational has an added element for Zalatoris, who returned to the PGA Tour in December following an eight-month recovery after having a microdiscectomy in April 2023.

“I haven’t had any flare ups or anything like that, so I feel awesome,” said The Genesis Invitational runner-up.

Zalatoris will look to extend his streak of strong play this week at Bay Hill as he continues his comeback in 2024.

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Posted: Mar 6 2024 10:47 am
Filed under: Golf Sports