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Ashley Davis ('07) Interviewed by the Florida Times Union On Meeting Arnold Palmer

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: April 08, 2008
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April 8, 2008

Florida Times-Union April 3, 2008 Palmer's presence a wow factor By Garry Smits, The Times-Union

Ashleigh Korzack gasped, eyes and mouth open wide, when the elevator door opened Wednesday and she saw Arnold Palmer waiting in the World Golf Hall of Fame Tower rotunda. -------------------------------------------------- --------------------------------------------------

Ashley Davis ('07), her friend and partner in The Golf Channel's new reality show, Highway 18, was so stunned to see Palmer that she backed up in the elevator, pressed her body against the side and held her hand over her mouth.

"I think I cried," Korzack said.

Meeting the King - who grilled each team on a golf history fact as part of the competition - was the first of many surprises for the contestants in the show, which Golf Channel producers are calling a links version of The Amazing Race.

For the next two weeks, five two-person teams will be filmed as they race from one golf course to another in Florida, covering an estimated 1,200 miles, in a combination of "road challenges" and "clubhouse challenges."

Through various clues left by the show's producers and writers, the teams will try to beat each other to each site, then compete in golf-skills challenges. The 10-part series will begin airing July 22.

Filming opened Wednesday, with the teams receiving their first clues at the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, leading them to the Hall of Fame.

After skills tests at the Hall of Fame Challenge Hole and the putting course, teams were directed to the top of the tower and told only that a question would await them. None of them knew it would be Palmer, a charter member of the Hall of Fame, delivering the question.

The reactions from each team as the elevator door opened were priceless.

"Oh, my God," said Charlotte Campbell, an Orlando resident competing with her brother, Rob.

"Ho!" exclaimed Parker King, a Goldsboro, N.C. resident who's on a team with longtime friend Andy Craine.

It might be considered impressive that Korzack and Davis, born the year Palmer won the PGA Senior Championship and the Senior Players Championship (1984) and 11 years after his last PGA Tour victory, immediately recognized the King. Not to them.

"Hey, we're golfers," Davis said. "... We know who Arnold Palmer is."

The contestants left the Hall of Fame before noon and headed for another skills challenge at the TPC Sawgrass Dye's Valley Course.

Palmer, who made the 20-minute flight from Orlando in his Citation 10 plane to appear in the show's filming, seemed to take great delight in the experience. He even ad-libbed a line to the Campbells.

If the teams were unable to answer the question, the script called for Palmer to tell them to go back into the Hall of Fame and Museum and find the answer among the exhibits. Palmer had another idea.

"If you don't answer the question, you have to jump off the tower," he told the brother and sister.

Palmer said the concept of golf reality shows, which The Golf Channel began with its Big Break series, actually was something he had a hand in pioneering.

"Don't forget ... I did those All-Star Golf, shows, Gary [Player] and I did Challenge Golf, then Gary, Jack [Nicklaus] and I did Big Three Golf," Palmer said. "And sometimes it would take two or three days to film 18 holes. They've got it down to a science now."

Jay Kossoff, a Jacksonville native and executive producer of The Golf Channel's original productions, said Palmer's influence on golf and television was more than his popularity on the PGA Tour getting fans to tune in to early live telecasts of tournament competition.

"Arnie was the guy who brought golf to TV, and he did it in more ways than one," Kossoff said.

Kossoff, a Wolfson High School graduate, said the Big Break series' popularity has spawned Highway 18. Production on the 10th edition of the Big Break recently began.

"Our viewers love to see people playing the game and imagining themselves in their position," Kossoff said.

garry.smits@jacksonville.com,

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