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Saunders’ Opening Shot Honors Palmer’s Legacy

June 12, 2019 - 7:09 PM
Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, will have the honor of hitting Thursday's opening tee shot of the 119th U.S. Open. (USGA/JD Cuban)

Sam Saunders is making his third career start on Thursday in the U.S. Open Championship, but he considers it “one of the most meaningful tournaments I will ever play.” The reason for that is the venue, Pebble Beach Golf Links, to which he has special ties. Saunders, 31, of Atlantic Beach, Fla., is the grandson of the late Arnold Palmer, the 1960 U.S. Open champion, who was a member of the investment group that purchased Pebble Beach in 1999. Saunders has spent a great deal of time here, and when he turned professional in 2009, he cashed his first check on the PGA Tour at the 2010 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Recognizing how special the occasion is to Saunders, the USGA scheduled him for the first tee time Thursday at 6:45 a.m. PDT on hole No. 1. He is listed first among the grouping that includes Carlos Ortiz and Marcus Fraser, giving him the honor of the first shot of the championship. “To have the USGA put that much thought into it and there’s a reason they put me off first, I am incredibly flattered and very touched by it,” said Saunders, who qualified for the championship by finishing third in sectional qualifying in Columbus, Ohio. “To hit the first tee shot is exciting, but hopefully I go out there and put up a good score and put myself in contention and be on the leader board from the very beginning to the end.”