[PHOTO: Sam Greenwood]

If there was one player who embodied all that is good about the game of golf, including its dedication to charitable causes, and who used his popularity and influence to bring people together for philanthropy, it was the late Arnold Palmer.

That influence continues to this day.

This Saturday, officials of the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation want to commemorate the spirit of the legendary golfer and his legacy of giving back through a new charitable program. Why this Saturday? Because for the past 20 years the US recognises February 10 as National Umbrella Day. The umbrella is regarded as a symbol of protection and unity.

Appropriately, an umbrella also is the logo that Palmer had created for himself and his businesses. It stands to reason, then, to leverage the Palmer brand, the icon of the multi-coloured umbrella, as an inspiration for people to give to other organisations.

“Our thought was that we wanted to highlight the good of the game and the philanthropic nature of professional golf as Arnold Palmer did during his life,” said Ken Boehner, president and chairman of the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation. “Mr Palmer gave generously of his time, and he was a catalyst for inspiring others to come together for causes. Arnold and Winnie Palmer had a multiplying effect in terms of their impact because they brought so many other people together to make a difference.”

Arnold Palmer walks with an umbrella during the 2002 Masters. [Photo: Augusta National]
The program that was created is simply called Umbrella Day, highlighted by the catchphrase “celebrate the good of the game”. Through Umbrella Day, the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation hopes to spur giving, not just to its mission, but to partner charities that include foundations started by Camilo Villegas, Ernie Els, Billy Horschel and Joel Dahmen. Visitors to the Umbrella Day website can target their gifts to one of 10 different charitable organisations that have been brought together, if you will, under the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation umbrella.

“Our task, our responsibility, our honour is to carry on the legacy of Mr and Mrs Palmer,” Boehner said. “And the way we define that legacy is one that is characterised by being an American life of global significance, informed by two genuine loves, the love of golf and the love of people. And that was characterised by two unique things in balance – character and personality. It’s really what built an army of admirers. And all of that was possible because of golf. But it wasn’t about golf only. We reflect on the incredible philanthropic impact that Mr and Mrs Palmer had throughout their lives, quietly but publicly. It was giving of themselves to ensure that people in need, particularly children, had a better life.”

The hope, Boehner said, is for more professional golfers and charity organisations to join the initiative in future years. It was the desire of Amy Saunders, the Palmers’ daughter, to celebrate her father’s iconic red, yellow, white and green umbrella on National Umbrella Day in a way that helped other charitable organisations tied to the game.

“The focus is not on our foundation but on inspiring people to give back to whatever cause is important or special to them,” Boehner said. “Just as the Palmers didn’t make anything about themselves, we’re really keen to celebrate all the other great people and organisations in golf that are giving back in their communities and to the causes they care about because of golf.”

While organisers have targeted National Umbrella Day, the website accepting donations to the cause already is live. Those who are interested in “giving back” can visit https://umbrelladay.org/.

In addition to the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation, partner organisations for the inaugural Umbrella Day are Els For Autism, Mia’s Miracles, Horschel Family Foundation, Dahmen Family Foundation, Congaree Foundation, Wake Forest Golf, First Tee of Pittsburgh, First Tee of Central Florida and National Links Trust.