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PHOTOS: 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational: Kurt Kitayama Holds On, Secures First PGA Tour Win

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Kurt Kitayama receives the Arnold Palmer Invitational trophy and red cardigan after winning the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida Sunday, March 4, 2023. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.
Kurt Kitayama receives the Arnold Palmer Invitational trophy and red cardigan after winning the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida Sunday, March 4, 2023. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The sense of relief on Kurt Kitayama’s face said it all.

 

Kurt Kitayama knocks in his final two-inch putt to win the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida Sunday, March 4, 2023. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Kurt Kitayama knocks in his final two-inch putt to win the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida Sunday, March 4, 2023. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

 

His 47-foot, 2-inch birdie putt on the 18th green Sunday afternoon at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard hung perilously on the edge of the hole, having rolled just a fraction of an inch too short to disappear into the bottom of the cup. Yet he needed only a par to secure his first PGA TOUR victory, and suddenly, all the close calls the last two years had disappeared. The restless evening sleeping on the lead Saturday night and all the stress brought on by a frenetic final round that saw six different players stake a claim to the lead throughout the afternoon had vanished.

 

 

Kitayama scanned the gallery surrounding the iconic 18th at Bay Hill Club & Lodge and couldn’t help smiling. Moments later, he tapped in his TaylorMade with the two red X markings on either side of the red number 3, removed his hat and hugged caddie Tim Tucker.

 

Kurt Kitayama removes his hat in relief after winning the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida Sunday, March 4, 2023. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Kurt Kitayama removes his hat in relief after winning the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida Sunday, March 4, 2023. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

 

Now it was official, and his 9-under-par 279 total left him one stroke better than 2018 API champion Rory McIlroy and Harris English. Two strokes behind were former API winners Scottie Scheffler and Tyrrell Hatton as well as Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay. Kitayama, the 30-year-old native of Chico, Calif. had not only prevailed for the first time on the PGA TOUR, but had done so against one of the deepest fields in the Arnold Palmer Invitational’s history.

 

Kurt Kitayama raises the Arnold Palmer Invitational trophy and dons the red cardigan after winning the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida Sunday, March 4, 2023. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Kurt Kitayama raises the Arnold Palmer Invitational trophy and dons the red cardigan after winning the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida Sunday, March 4, 2023. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

 

“I’ve always dreamed of winning on the TOUR and to finally do it, yeah, it’s pretty amazing,” the soft-spoken Kitayama said. “It’s pretty unbelievable, really.

“Lucky enough to have it at a very special place, so that’s a bonus.”

 

Kurt Kitayama dons the distinguished red cardigan after winning the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida Sunday, March 4, 2023. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Kurt Kitayama dons the distinguished red cardigan after winning the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida Sunday, March 4, 2023. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

 

Kitayama had won three times overseas between 2018 and 2019, and on the PGA TOUR had runner-up finishes last season to Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele, then another second-place finish earlier this year to McIlroy.

 

 

“I’m really happy for Kurt,” McIlroy said. “He’s been playing well for a while now, and I’m happy to see him get his first win.

“He’s done really well. He’s sort of persevered and played wherever he could get starts, and all of a sudden he’s won one of the biggest events on the PGA TOUR. So good for him.”

Having held the second- and third-round leads outright, Kitayama stayed tough through most of the front nine and was two-under par for the day heading to the ninth tee. A pulled drive out of bounds there led to a triple-bogey 7 and saw him relinquish the lead, but he parred each of the next seven holes. A 13-foot, 8-inch birdie putt on the 17th vaulted him back to the top of the leaderboard all by himself.

 

Kurt Kitayama takes a swing during the final day of the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida Sunday, March 5, 2023. Photo: Michael Brodsky/Florida National News.

Kurt Kitayama takes a swing during the final day of the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida Sunday, March 5, 2023. Photo: Michael Brodsky/Florida National News.

 

On 18, his drive found the primary rough left of the fairway, and he confidently blasted a 189-yard approach shot to the green, still leaving him a healthy distance from the hole needing to get down in two.

“You probably practice the 5- to 10-footers for the win,” Kitayama said. “I was definitely nervous. Just tried to focus on speed, and that was it, and try and blank everything out besides that. When I marked it and walked over to Tim it was just, like, a big sigh of relief that this was really happening.”

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Florida

Scottie Scheffler Wins Second Red Cardigan at 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational

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Photo credit: Mike Brodsky, Florida National News

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN Sports) – Scottie Scheffler wins his second red cardigan at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, today, along with $4 million of the $20 million prize pool. The red cardigan was first awarded in 2017, in memory of Arnold Palmer who passed the year before. Scheffler first won the API in 2022.

Scottie Scheffler wins the Arnold Palmer Invitational. (Photo credit: Mike Brodsky, Florida National News)

The number one ranked golfer in the world, Scheffler finished at 15 under par for the four day tournament, carding a 66 today. Wyndham Clark finished in second place at 10 under par. API defending champion, Kurt Kitayama, did not make the cut, this weekend, finishing 7 over par after the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday.

This coming week, the top golfers head to TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, for the 50th anniversary of The Players Championship. The winner will walk away with $4.5 million of the $25 million up for grabs. This is the PGA Tour’s largest regular season purse. Stay tuned to www.FloridaNationalNews.com for more.

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Golf

Lydia Ko and Jeff McNeil win the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions

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Lydia Ko win the 2024 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, Sunday, January 21, 2024. Photo by Harry Castiblanco / Florida National News

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – Lake Nona resident, Lydia Ko, has won the 2024 Hilton Grand Vacations LPGA Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club in Orlando, while Mets All-Star Second Baseman, Jeff McNeil, has won the celebrities and amateurs competition. The four day tournament wrapped up Sunday. Ko takes home $225,000 of the $1.5 million prize pool, while baseball player McNeil wins $100,000 of the $500,000 designated for the athletes and entertainers.

 

Lydia Ko and Jeff McNeil win the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, Sunday, January 21, 2024. Photo by Harry Castiblanco / Florida National News

Ko finished at -14, two strokes ahead of Alexa Pano. Defending champion, Brooke Henderson, finished third at ten under par. McNeil ended with 138 points using the Modified Stableford scoring system, in his first time competing in this tournament. Annika Sorenstam finished in second place amongst the celebrity golfers, with 136. Former Major League Baseball pitchers Derek Lowe and Mark Mulder tied for third place at 135.

The Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions also announced today that they have extended their agreement with the LPGA to continue this tournament at Lake Nona for another five years, with a 65% increase in the prize pool money.

Stay tuned to Florida National News for more, and be sure to follow our Florida National News page on Facebook for more photos and videos from the tournament.

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Golf

Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions Returns to Lake Nona

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Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions (Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky, Florida National News)

ORLANDO, Fla. (Florida National News) – The Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions is back at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club in Orlando Thursday, 1/18 through Sunday, 1/21. This tournament kicks off the LPGA Tour’s 74th season, featuring top women golfers, who have qualified by winning a tournament in 2022 or 2023, playing alongside celebrities from the world of sports, entertainment, and music.

Annika Sorenstam practices on the driving range for the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions. (Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky, Florida National News)

 

Comedy fans can watch Larry The Cable Guy entertain the crowd with his one-liners and banter. “Fresh Prince” fans can tune in to Alfonso Ribeiro in hopes of seeing him dance “The Carlton.” Bachelor fans can follow Ben Higgins or Wells Adams to see if they’re passing out any roses.

Sports fans can see some true legends in a different light. Basketball fans can look for Vince Carter, Ray Allen, or Chandler Parsons. Baseball fans can watch for John Smoltz, Albert Pujols, or Roger Clemens. Football fans will find Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith, Marcus Allen, Brian Urlacher, and Charles Woodson.

You’ll find many other actors, musicians, and champions of various sports. If you’d like to watch some fun golf while also celebrity spotting, be sure to visit the tournament’s website to get your tickets, and to see who else will be playing this year.

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