The Ryan Palmer Foundation‘s Brighter Smiles Initiative aims to correct dental issues that can lead to social and health problems for children. And there were plenty of smiles among the children in the audience Friday at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club, as the 70th-ranked player in the world answered questions while taking aim at the large, inflatable “Golfzilla” and other targets set up on the practice range.
Providing an example of perseverance, Palmer vowed not to leave until he nailed the big blue beast standing about 150 yards from the tee. After drilling it a number of times with some low, 2-iron stingers—a shot he’s practicing in preparation for next week’s Open Championship at Royal Troon in Scotland—he went on to hit his driver clear to the other end of the range, striking the Green Valley Ranch Academy building on a bounce.
The shots and the life lessons he imparted also struck a chord with the gallery of about 80 onlookers. Since The First Tee didn’t exist when he was growing up in Amarillo, Texas, Palmer said he learned the game from his father. “I shot a 119 my first time out when I was nine,” he said. “I can’t remember what I shot last week, but I remember that 119.”
Palmer said he also remembered the lessons his dad taught him about respecting the game, the course and the people around you. “He taught me to be the kind of person that treats people the right way and how to act on the golf course,” Palmer said. “The worst thing you can do is show your frustration and kind of make a fool of yourself.”
He also said he “wasn’t the greatest academic student” at Texas A&M, but he graduated and worked hard to succeed at golf, practicing long hours. The 39-year-old’s diligence has paid off with $20 million in career earnings (including $319,000 for a fourth-place finish at Cherry Hills during the PGA Tour’s last Colorado event, the 2014 BMW Championship) during his 13 seasons on the Tour.
Like Hale Irwin last month, Palmer conducted the clinic to help promote the CoBank Colorado Open championships, which are administered by the Colorado Open Golf Foundation to benefit The First Tee of Green Valley Ranch. Although the RBC Canadian Open will preclude him from playing in the CoBank Colorado Open July 21-24, Palmer marveled at the “unheard of” $250,000 purse and $100,000 winner’s share of the CoBank Colorado Open.
“Once the word gets out,” he said, “more guys will want to play.”
It’s already happening. According to CEO of the CoBank Colorado Opens and of The First Tee of Green Valley Ranch Kevin Laura, all four CoBank Colorado Open tournaments have sold out for the first time in the event’s history. The deepening field will include former PGA Tour winners Jonathan Kaye and Parker McLachlin, as well as aspiring pros from across the country.
Thanks to more competitive fields, coupled with clinics by stars like Irwin and Palmer—as well as by Paula Creamer, who’ll conduct one August 29—the CoBank Colorado Opens continue to generate the kind of prestige they richly deserve.
That should bring a smile to everyone’s face.
More photos from the event:
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