ORLANDO, Fla. – Arnold Palmer may be gone, but one Tour player has carried on one of the favorite pastimes of “The King.”
Morgan Hoffmann enters this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational sporting a bit of a recent streakiness. The 27-year-old has missed six of his last 11 cuts on the PGA Tour but has also produced a T-2 finish (at the Honda Classic) in that span.
Even his plane rides aren’t all smooth nowadays.
“We had a really bumpy flight for (last week’s Valspar Championship),” Hoffmann said.
Who was the pilot for that flight? Hoffmann himself.
The former Oklahoma State star took ground-school training during his college days and earned his private pilot license in December 2014. Six months later, he purchased the six-seat, single-engine Piper Lance, a private plane he owns to this day.
Hoffmann’s affinity for flying is especially pertinent this week at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, as Arnold Palmer was himself an avid pilot.
The King logged over 18,000 hours of flying in his life. Hoffmann, a PGA Tour veteran since 2013, flies to roughly half of his events. The Arnold Palmer Invitational is no exception.
He’s been pilot every year to Bay Hill, including this time. Hoffmann made the short flight from Jupiter to Orlando, Fla. for the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Monday morning.
Hoffmann has additionally stamped all of his wedges this week with Palmer tributes.
Hoffmann grew up in an aviation family – his father a pilot and his mother a flight attendant – but didn’t decide to go after his own pilot’s license until a conversation with Palmer at the 2009 Arnold Palmer Cup at Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, Colo.
“He was just telling me about the different planes he had, how much fun he had learning things off the course,” Hoffmann said. “The whole conversation was pretty special.”
Palmer and Hoffmann had several follow-up conversations on flying in the ensuing years.
The King’s advice to his young counterpart? Stay safe, know the weather and always have an alternate airport in mind.
Learning to fly requires far more studying than most understand, Hoffman noted, as there’s so many subjects a pilot has to have down at an expert level.
Hoffman, in fact, could never stump Palmer on anything when it came to flying.
“There was no question he didn’t have the answer to,” Hoffmann said.
The 27-year-old counts himself lucky in his career at the moment, as Hoffmann finished 125th on the PGA Tour’s money list in 2015-16. That would be the exact last spot for him to retain his PGA Tour card for 2016-17.
“I didn’t think I had a chance to get it, so I’m pretty ecstatic to be here,” Hoffmann said.
Well, he’s here and he’s flying high. Just as “The King” would like it.