Arnie's Army marches on in Palmer's memory
March 13, 2017
By Doug Milne, PGA TOUR Staff
Leading the charge of Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation as its Chief Executive Officer is bound to be a distinction defined by both honor and challenge. After all, the mission is to build on the inspired vision of golf’s most charismatic, caring and personable figure. Therein lies both the challenge and honor.
But, when Texas native Kevin Bingham officially began the job on September 19 of last year, just six days would pass before that legendary figure would leave this world behind. Bingham’s boss, and everyman’s friend, died on September 25.
When a person leaves behind an indelible mark as did Palmer, the ensuing action must never be to rest nostalgically in the final footprint, but to build an even greater path down which new tracks can be made.
Bingham comes to Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation with a history steeped in creating footprints of all sizes.
“When I was in college, I started working with the Boys and Girls Club of America in the gymnasium at a local club,” Bingham said. “When I left there 22 years later, I was the Senior Regional Service Director of the Southwest region.”
From there, Bingham assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. As it was with the Boys and Girls Club of America previously, Bingham’s work at the Baltimore Foundation put all its focus and energy into youth.
“I was working one day, very happily, when I got a call from a recruiter,” Bingham recalled. “He said ‘Mr. Palmer is starting a Foundation. Do you know anybody who may be interested?’ Well, I loved the game of golf and, of course, loved Arnold Palmer, so I told him I was actually interested.”
His interest resulted in full-blown pursuit. Following a long and thorough searching process, Amy Palmer Saunders, Palmer’s Foundation President, along with the Board, chose Hingham.
“It was beyond anything I've ever dreamed that I could do,” Bingham said. “My family aside, this job aligns with the very things that I've been most passionate about my entire life – golf, nonprofit mission and vision and working with young people. So, it's like a dream come true.”
While much of what Bingham has done and achieved in the non-profit world came through a required mix of patience and persistence, his time with Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation has been unlike anything he had ever previously experienced.
“It's totally different than any work experience I've ever had professionally,” Bingham said. “With the respect and the love that people have for Mr. Palmer and the strength of the brand, this has been a totally different experience. In my 30-plus years of time in the non-profit business, I have never seen an outpouring of support like we have here. I'm used to chasing people down and asking them for money. Here, people are chasing me down and asking me how much they can give. That’s an incredibly nice and different thing.”
With that continued outpouring of Arnie-esque support, Bingham and his team have been afforded the chance to begin paving a more solid pat down which those future footprints will be made.
“What the foundation is best known for is the Arnold Palmer Medical Center, the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies here in Orlando,” Bingham said. “Countless lives have been saved through the efforts of Arnold and Winnie Palmer’s hospitals. As we continue to support them in a big way, a shift in our focus is the development of research to help cure pediatric cancers and how we can help push that forward and make more robust alternatives to previous young people.”
In addition to the support and advancement of the hospitals, Bingham has also placed an emphasis of cultivating the youth all over the world in Palmer’s image.
Adamant that the game of golf should serve primarily as the gateway to enhanced personal lives, Palmer believed stronger individuals resulted in stronger efforts and results on a broader scale. With that in mind, the late King created the Arnold Palmer Cup. In the past, the Ryder Cup-themed matches would pit college men from America against those from Europe.
Bingham and his team have decided to expand on the qualifications, thus creating even more footprints.
“Beginning in 2018, the Arnold Palmer Cup will include females and we will expand it to America versus the world, not just Europe,” Bingham said. “So, instead of having 24 young men, we're going to have 48 players, young men and women, from all over the world competing for the Arnold Palmer Cup.”
2018’s Arnold Palmer Cup will take place in the exquisite region of Evian, France.
“We are thrilled about playing in France,” Bingham said. “Not only is it a unique setting, but it will be unique in that the young men and women will be paired together and even play from the same tees. With this, we have an opportunity to introduce Mr. Palmer's legacy and what he was about. The idea is to use the game of golf on these young people, with the hope of them promoting Mr. Palmer's legacy and learning of what made him great.”
There’s no question about the void which will be felt for the first time at this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. But, while Mr. Palmer’s physical presence will be missed, the footprints he left behind are, again, not for stalling in but for building upon.
Bingham is poised and excited to spend the week with the players who have returned to Bay Hill this week.
“It’s both exciting and sobering,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to meet the players, talk about what we are doing with Arnie's Army Charitable Foundation and hopefully enlist them in the effort to honor Mr. Palmer's legacy and continue to move it forward.”
David and his wife Laurie are the parents of three kids, Hailey (23, University of Montana), Kaitelyn (20, Texas A&M) and a 13-year-old son, Jackson.
Founded in 2015, Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation continues Palmer’s philanthropic legacy through its involvement with the health, well-being and development of children and youth. For more information, visit arniesarmy.org.
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