Marc Leishman has a special place in history as the only Australian winner of the Arnold Palmer Award.
It wasn’t called that when Leishman was named the PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year in 2009 but as he returns to Bay Hill this week for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the former champion has reflected on his connection to one of golf’s most revered figures.
Leishman’s title win in 2017 was the first since Palmer’s passing in 2016 and two years after his own life was thrown upside-down, albeit – thankfully – momentarily.
Golf was the furthest thing from Leishman’s mind as Audrey spent five days in a coma fighting for her life, his first win in five years providing a timely opportunity to consider what it means to live “a life well played”.
“He's someone that you look up to, not just in golf,” Leishman said following his win in 2017.
“They say ‘a life well played’ because he's lived his life to the fullest.
“I don't want to get 30 years down the track and wish I had spent more time with my kids.
“I feel like if you can be a good dad, good husband, good person, play some good golf along the way, enjoy yourself, enjoy a few beers, enjoy some good food... I feel like that's a life well played and that's how he lived his life.
“You hear some of the stories that Sam (Saunders, Palmer’s grandson) tells and you can tell that it's truly from the heart and that he's such a great man.
“That's what it means to me and that's how I try to live my life, to be known as a great person who played good golf.”
Now in his 11th season on the PGA TOUR and currently ranked seventh in the FedEx Cup standings, Leishman said Palmer played a key role in helping to feel comfortable on tour and that the naming of the rookie award is a fitting honour.
“It's fantastic. There are all sorts of awards named after great players and to have one named after Arnold Palmer is pretty fitting,” Leishman told AAP this week.
“Arnie always made people feel comfortable and, as a rookie, you need to get comfortable on tour as quick as you can.”
Leishman is one of just three Australians in the field this week along with 2016 champion Jason Day and Aaron Baddeley who was tied for second in his last start, the Puerto Rico Open.
There were encouraging signs for Danny Lee as he finished tied for 36th at The Honda Classic last week, Lee the sole Kiwi in the field.
The Champions Tour is in Newport Beach, California this week for the Hoag Classic where David McKenzie whose best finish this year is a tie for 11th at the Chubb Classic two starts back.
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