Rickie Fowler’s eye-catching appearance has been his trademark since he first hit the PGA Tour in 2010.
Arnold Palmer’s sense of cool and style was unmatched in golf for decades, making it only fitting Fowler found a way to honor The King with his wardrobe during the first tournament at Bay Hill without Palmer.
On the eve of the opening round of Arnold Palmer Invitational, Fowler donned special-edition Puma hi-top shoes during Wednesday’s Pro-Am to pay homage to Palmer and his charity.
“I told some people I’m not sure if I’m going to take them off,” Fowler said.
A collage of Palmer appears on each side of the shoes; Palmer’s signature is laser-engraved on the Velcro straps; and his multi-colored umbrella logo sits behind the tongue of the left shoe, while on the right are words from Fowler on Palmer’s influence.
“I love you as did everyone! RIP The King!” Fowler concludes.
Fowler is just 28, but he had a deep and abiding history with Palmer.
Wearing a hat and windshirt emblazoned with iconic API umbrella, Fowler recalled teeing it up during the annual Seminole Pro-Member in 2011 with Palmer and shooting a 63.
“I’m glad I stepped up to the occasion, at least showed him a little bit,” Fowler said.
Palmer had his moments that day, too.
“Still had great hands,” Fowler said. “I think it was on 11, he hit about a 50-yard bunker shot up the hill. No big deal. And that’s one of the hardest shots in golf.”
Fowler played Bay Hill for the second time a few weeks later, finishing for a tie for 30th after a tough final-round 78. In 2013, Fowler tied for third, while Tiger Woods won the API for the eighth time.
“That was one of my kind of favorite memories from here,” Fowler said. “I was able to hang at bar with [Woods] and Arnold after that and just kind of share a late afternoon into the night with those guys.”
But Fowler could not make it to Bay Hill in 2016 for the final tournament with Arnold Palmer there.
Fowler, who lives in Jupiter, did make a two-hour drive to have lunch with Palmer and let him know he would not be playing.
Palmer appreciated the Fowler going the extra mile.
Palmer’s undisturbed office at Bay Hill is a veritable museum to his career. Only one golf hat sits on the shelves — one signed by Fowler after his visit last March.
“I wasn’t aware of it,” Fowler said. “I was sent a picture a few days back and saw it was in there. Hopefully we can add to that.
“I want to leave the right shoe here and hopefully next to the hat.”
Fowler plans to put the left shoe in a small shrine to Palmer back at his home, along with a Ryder Cup hat with an umbrella pin, a program from Palmer’s Oct. 4 memorial service in Latrobe, Pa., and other items related to The King.
The other pair of commemorative hi-tops will be auctioned on ebay until Sunday, with proceeds going to Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation.
As the afternoon wound down Wednesday, the bid was approaching $10,000.
But Fowler knows the best way to honor Palmer this week would be to win his tournament.
At times, Fowler’s career has been more style than substance, but his talent has never been a question.
His win last month at the Honda Classic, Fowler’s fourth victory on Tour, moved him inside the top-10 in the world rankings and makes him a favorite this week.
“I like where the game’s at, where it’s heading,” he said.
But if Fowler were to walk away from Bay Hill Sunday with a win, something would be missing.
Palmer’s 72nd hole handshake capped a big week for the winner. Soon, he was sure to receive one of the handwritten, congratulatory letters Palmer would send players throughout the season.
Fowler has a few of them.
“Whenever you see the letterhead and see who it’s from … it could be a blank page and just signed Arnold Palmer at the end and it’s awesome,” Fowler said. “I know everyone’s going to miss those.”