ORLANDO, Fla. -- The connection isn’t at all obvious. Not socially, geographically, academically or through even the most obscure business networking.
Usually, a quick perusal of the players given sponsor exemptions into the Arnold Palmer Invitational each spring have at least one of three things in common.
They are members of the Bay Hill Club & Lodge, products of Palmer's college alma mater at Wake Forest, or are represented by management agency IMG, the company whose DNA is all over the event.
Veteran Jason Gore whiffs on all three pitches, but he found a way to get invited into this week's 120-player field nonetheless.
Late last year, Gore played in an outing with Palmer in Naples, Fla., and he reminded the King that they had met before. Way before, actually.
Gore said that when he was 11, he was visiting family in Pennsylvania when his mom took him to Latrobe Country Club, Palmer's other famous home track. They marched into the pro shop and asked whether Mr. Palmer was around.
"I was wearing surfer shorts, and probably had on a Town & Country T-shirt, even though I had never been surfing in my life," laughed Gore, who was raised in the Los Angeles area. "We asked in the pro shop if he was around, and they said yes, he was expected shortly."
The Gores hung out, and when the ever-personable Palmer showed up, he invited Gore to watch him practice. To say that Gore fell hard for the game, which he had played only casually, is an understatement.
"From that point on," he said, "I knew I wanted to be a professional golfer."
He reminded Palmer of the story last year and the friendship was rekindled. Gore, the only player ever to win three straight Nationwide Tour starts and the winner of the now-defunct 84 Lumber event, is paired with Heath Slocum and Fredrik Jacobson in the first two rounds.