Arnold Palmer Turning Point event set for Detroit
DETROIT, Mich. -- What started as a simple golf trip among friends became the launching pad for possibly one of the biggest charity golf tournaments ever created.
When Clark Durant, the chief executive officer of The Cornerstone Schools in Detroit, told his friends that he needed a great idea for a fundraiser, they chastised him. They were getting ready to play one of the world's great courses the next day, the No. 2 course at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club in North Carolina, and nobody wanted to be distracted from the experience.
But as the group walked up and down those hallowed fairways, an idea was hatched -- the Turning Point Invitational.
As he was walking behind Durant, Rick Cole, a partner at Cornerstone and the chief administrative officer of the Detroit Medical Center, noticed his buddy's hat, which had the date "August 28, 1954" written on the back.
The date signified not only Arnold Palmer's U.S. Amateur victory at Durant's home club, the Country Club of Detroit, but many golf historians consider it the birth date of the modern era of golf.
"Why doesn't your club try to get Mr. Palmer?" Rick said, according to what Durant recalled of that conversation in October of 2002. "It's not going to work. You'll have to go through (Palmer's agents)," said someone else in the foursome. But Rick insisted it could be done. "Somewhere in your rolodex, somebody knows Palmer. You can do it."
Former Ford Motor Co. CEO Harold "Red" Polling was just the guy. He connected Palmer and Durant, and the two worked out the details of the event. With Palmer on board, 26 other past U.S. Amateur champions (along with this year's champ) have committed to play in the Arnold Palmer Turning Point Invitational, a two-day fundraiser at the Country Club of Detroit. Durant said the tournament could raise up to $5 million, a record for any golf event, creating the Arnold Palmer Education Fund, which will help inner-city children attend The Cornerstone Schools. The First Tee and other charities will also benefit.
Big names like Bruce Fleisher (the 1968 U.S. Amateur champ), Lanny Wadkins (1970), Craig Stadler (1973), John Cook (1978), Mark O'Meara (1979), Scott Verplank (1984), Billy Mayfair (1987), Phil Mickelson (1990), Hank Kuehne (1998), David Gossett (1999) and Ricky Barnes (2002) have all committed to play. Several past champions who won't attend include Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Jerry Pate, Hal Sutton, Jerry Pate and Justin Leonard.
Sutton and Woods will be busy preparing for a visit to Michigan in September for the 2004 Ryder Cup at the South Course at Oakland Hills Country Club. The combination of the Turning Point Invitational, along with the Ryder Cup, will make this golf season truly memorable in Michigan.
Palmer considered his 1-up victory over Robert Sweeney so important in his life, he wrote a book about it, titled "My Turning Point in Golf." He went on to win seven majors among his 62 victories on the PGA Tour.
"This is truly historic and unbelievable," Durant said. "When Red and I decided to tie the tournament to past U.S. Amateur champions, they all said you'll never get more than four or five together." Each past U.S. Amateur champ will captain a foursome in the one-day pro-am on Aug. 30. Durant said 75 percent of the individual spots, which cost $25,000, have already been sold.
To mimic the intimate setting of the 1954 U.S. Amateur, only 3,000 spectators will be allowed in to watch. A limited number of tickets, about 1,500 are available through TicketMaster, will reserve a spot in the dinner gala the night before golf and a gallery pass. Or you can try your luck to enter a drawing at the tournament's Web site, turningpointinvitational.org.
Cole said the event is not only a fundraiser but a tribute to Palmer.
"People are contacting us from around the country who want to be a part of this," Cole said. "I fully expect there to be a frenzy for those who want to be part of it. There are severe limitations on the gallery and the dinner. It will be exclusive, but it is for the most inclusive of purposes, to celebrate a guy (Palmer) who brought golf to the world."
Durant said the tournament's cause helped bring some of golf's finest players together. The Cornerstone Schools, a collection of private schools on three separate campuses in Detroit, were founded 13 years ago. Currently, about 800 students from 4-year-olds to eighth-graders attend classes in an 11-month school year.
Ernestine Sanders, the president of The Cornerstone Schools, said the school aims for a world-class education.
"We don't just skim off the top (choosing top students)," she said. "We place the students where they fit and then put the curriculum around them to be successful."
The students are also being taught a little each day about the golfers who are generously giving up their time.
"We've educated them in terms of the past amateur champions, what is golf and the challenges they face," Sanders said.
For more information regarding the Arnold Palmer Turning Point Invitational, visit turningpointinvitational.org or call (313) 892-1860 ext. 261.
Your Turning Point
A book of inspirational stories from people who log onto turningpointinvitational.org and tell the story of a key turning point in their lives will be given to Arnold Palmer after the event.
April 20, 2004