The developers of the Ironwood golf course in Grand Cayman hope to make the resort a final tribute to Arnold Palmer, the course’s designer and a legend of the sport, who died this week at the age of 87.
David Moffitt, managing director of Ironwood, said Mr. Palmer had been directly involved and enthusiastic about the Cayman project. His company designed the course and will manage the resort and hotel.
Mr. Moffitt said it had been a privilege to get to know Mr. Palmer, one of the all-time greats of golf, in his final years.
He said, “He loved Cayman from his first visit here and was very excited about this project.
“We were hoping he would be here for the groundbreaking and through the completion to play the first round on the new course.
“Sadly, he won’t be here to see it, but the onus is on us to make a great design come to life.”
Mr. Palmer visited Grand Cayman three times to promote the Ironwood project and was said to be personally supervising the course design process.
During a question and answer session at the Westin Hotel in 2014 when his involvement with the project was first announced, he said, “I think this is something that you will be proud of long after I am down the road. I think you will be extremely proud of what is here and what you have attracted to your homeland.”
His involvement with the project grew as the development progressed and his company announced plans to run the course and hotel as an Arnold Palmer-branded resort, similar to his Bay Hills club and lodge in Florida.
Mr. Palmer was widely regarded as golf’s greatest ambassador, as well as one of the greatest and most influential players in the sport’s history.
He won more than 90 tournaments, including seven majors, becoming the first player to break the $1 million earnings barrier.
He was also known for his philanthropy, particularly his support of the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando.
U.S. President Barack Obama and latter day golf legend Tiger Woods were among those to pay tribute to the “king of golf” this weekend.
“Thanks Arnold for your friendship, counsel and a lot of laughs. Your philanthropy and humility are part of your legend,” Mr. Woods wrote on Twitter.
Beyond his prowess on the course, Mr. Palmer was known for his wit and charm. Some of that charisma was on display during the 2014 trip to the Cayman Islands as he spoke of his enthusiasm for the Ironwood project.
“This has got my excitement up more than anything other than my wife in many years,” he said.
And he insisted he was going to do it his way.
“I won’t suggest you give me tips on how to do a golf course. If you feel like it, go ahead, I probably won’t listen anyway. Let me and my guys go; you will see things at some point that make you go ‘boy, does he really know what he’s doing?’ Well, I’ve done this for so long and for so many people, and I can’t think of too many that really hate me.”
Mr. Moffitt said Mr. Palmer’s affable nature and personal charm were evident on his trips to Cayman.
“Mr. Palmer was known for never turning down an autograph request. I saw this personally when we were out at Legendz one evening; everyone who asked got a picture with him. He just had a way of making people feel good.”
Mr. Palmer’s golf course design and resort management company, run by his daughter Amy and son-in-law Roy Saunders, will continue to operate and plans to make the Cayman project one of a number of resorts as it expands its portfolio of properties internationally.
“We have a good relationship with the Palmer family,” said Mr. Moffitt.
“They are in mourning right now but they have got a great legacy to continue.”
In a statement Monday afternoon, the Cayman Islands Government also paid tribute to Mr. Palmer, who visited the island on numerous occasions.
“During his stay, Mr. Palmer enjoyed having the opportunity to explore the island and meet with members of the community. He was always warmly welcomed and residents were captured by his unique spirit and endearing personality. It is an honour and a privilege to call Mr. Palmer a friend to the Cayman Islands.”