Arnold Palmer’s grandson, Sam Saunders, spoke to media members on Wednesday at the Web.com Tour championship prior to the event’s cancellation due to Hurricane Matthew:
SAM SAUNDERS: Interview
Q: A lot of people are saying great things about your speech, were you nervous about that?
SAUNDERS: Incredibly. More nervous than I’ve ever been in my life. More than anything, the company that I was speaking with. I’m a professional golfer, not a professional speaker. So my mindset was I’ll let them do the professional speaking and I’ll just try to do my best. I was very fortunate to somehow find the composure up there to say what I wanted to say.
Q: Did you have notes like word for word up there or what you wanted to say?
SAUNDERS: Not at all. I spent the week leading into it trying to figure out what to say and how to say it. I wrote a lot of stuff down, but the night before I was so frustrated. I’m not used to giving speeches, and I’m certainly not used to having a script. I felt the most important thing was to speak from the heart, and I didn’t have any paper or any notes and I just went up there and said what I felt needed to be said. I meant every word I said.
Q: I guess when you’re speaking on this subject, I guess speaking from the heart is kind of easy isn’t it?
SAUNDERS: Absolutely. That’s the thing is it’s really easy for me to talk about my granddad and how much I loved him and how much I cared about him. That’s why I knew going off a script was not going to be the right thing for me.
Q: There’s a lot of people, obviously the outpouring internationally, and a lot of people told me and I felt the same way, you felt like you lost a member of your family – an uncle, a grandfather…with that said, what were you feeling if they felt that?
SAUNDERS: That’s what’s so unique about him, and I’ve said it before that’s what made him who he is and who he was. Everybody lots a friend. We did. I lost a good friend. I lost my grandfather, but the whole world lost someone to look up to and a role model. He does, he feels like a member of your family. But like I said before, the most important thing is to carry on his morals, his values, and try to keep the inspiration that he gave us all moving forward.
Q: It’s hard to find something written about you that doesn’t say Arnold Palmer’s grandson, but it’s not something you’ve ever had a problem with… is it? Do you feel like you have your own identity?
SAUNDERS: I don’t need it. I have my own identity with my wife and children and my friends and family. They all support everything I do. Listen, I’m so proud to be Arnold Palmer’s grandson. That’s something I’m never going to shy away from. Maybe as a younger man I felt the need to be relevant, the need to have a name of my own, and I do and I always will. But I take great pride in carrying on his legacy, and that’s my main focus. I’m going to work my hardest to have a successful professional career, but I will never be able to achieve what he did on the golf course or really off the golf course. None of us really will. It’s so hard to make the impact that he made on the world, and for me to try to do that on my own would be silly. I have a great opportunity to take what he’s already done and make it not better, but I guess maybe try to improve it. Maybe try to carry it on and make sure that his name and values and the hospital and Arnie’s Army Foundation that it carries on and grows stronger and stronger through the years.
Q: Golf wise, you’ve talked a lot about what he’s meant to you off the course, but what’s maybe one thing that he taught you golf wise?
SAUNDERS: Oh gosh, to just play my own game, and stick to what I believe in as far as preparation and how to play the game. I try to do that my best. Gosh, I’m trying to soak up everything he ever told me about how to play this game. Not only on the golf course but how I carry myself off and the way I treat the media and the few fans that I have. I know that I would like to try to be an example of him and anyone that was a fan of his, I’d like to try to make sure that maybe they can see a little bit of him in me. I’d be very proud if that comparison was ever made.
Q: I know this week is kind of up in the air with the weather, but were you glad to get back to the golf course this quickly?
SAUNDERS: Yeah, it was good to get back last night. His legacy will never end like I said, but it’s not closure. But he would want us to get back to normal. He would want us all to get back to work. Mr. Nicklaus said that to me yesterday, he said I’m here to help and anything I can do for you, but get back to work. That’s what he wants you to do, and that’s what I’m going to try to do and all of us. Do the best we can. Keep promoting this great sport and obviously this week, it’s a shame with this weather. I feel worse for the media, Atlantic Beach Country Club – they’ve got such a beautiful place here this week and everybody at the Web.com Tour has worked so hard to put on another great event like they always do and now we’re faced with this potential hurricane in Matthew. But I really hope everyone can stick it out and see if we can get this tournament in somehow. Everyone’s worked so hard and we deserve to have some kind of tournament for everyone.
Q: Have you been out on the golf course at all?
SAUNDERS: I have, twice.
Q: Erik Larsen designed it, I know you know Erik. Do you see some Palmer design principles out there?
SAUNDERS: I see some. Really, it’s just a wonderful golf course. This is really a fun golf course to play. This is the kind of course you could go out with your buddies and play in a foursome and it’s so well routed. You can get from one green to the next tee box in a few steps, and you can play fast. It’s so playable without having really any rough out there. When it’s firm and fast as it’s intended to play, it really would be a great challenge too. I think it’s a great layout. They really routed the course incredibly well for a limited land space. I think it’ll be a great course in the years to come, and I hope we can play a tournament here this week. If not, I would really love to somehow get a tournament back here someday.
Q: How important was it, you talked yesterday about the final phone call with your grandfather, how important was it to give that good bye to him?
SAUNDERS: Like I said, it’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and cherish those words that we were able to say to each other. I’m very thankful that the timing of it was as good as it was. Obviously, sad that it was the last call that we made, but I really am just lucky that I got in touch with him that day.
Q: Was his sickness a direct correlation of why you took those two weeks off?
SAUNDERS: No, that was another family matter at home with my own children that I was dealing with. We’re working through all that stuff, but this was not something we were expecting and not something that we were planning on. Obviously, he had pretty serious heart surgery planned for the next day, but we all were anticipating that to happen and for him to come back from that. But things happen for a reason, and I know he’s in a better place now. Very obviously he’s looking out for all of us.
Q: Obviously, to get that spot inside the top 25, do you have to have a more aggressive mindset than normal?
SAUNDERS: Of course, I’d love as always you play to win a golf tournament. To take a quote from my granddad, winning isn’t everything but wanting it is. I’m going to take that to heat in every tournament I play going forward. It’s fun. You should be here to win a tournament and compete with your friends and compete against your rivals but do it with great respect for one another. I’m looking forward to a fun week and I’m looking forward to all the opportunities that I hopefully have next year to play on the PGA TOUR. If it doesn’t work out this week, I’ll have enough starts, and in a way maybe it’ll sharpen my focus knowing that I won’t get quite as many starts as I have the past couple years. So when I do play, I need to make the most of it.