Hall of Famer Arnold Palmer is one of the original ambassadors for the game of golf and is hoping more young professionals follow his example by interacting with fans, which he says is the only way the game will continue to grow.
"It is very important, it is important for their business of being golfers and for their sponsors and for the people who make it possible for them to play," Palmer said of interacting with fans. "But I think a lot of them, and I'd say most of them, are aware of what they need to do as far as the fans are concerned.
"I certainly hope so and I'm watching. And they are doing very well, and these young people are very smart, intelligent people on the golf course and, with few exceptions, they are doing very well."
Palmer believes golf's popularity will grow as the PGA continues to improve the game to make it more inclusive to the average fan, as well as make it more enjoyable to watch and play.
How to grow the game was one of several subjects Palmer addressed in a news conference Tuesday at Southpointe Golf Club as part of activities leading up to the Mylan Classic, which begins Thursday.
He also touched on Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, saying both appear to be at the top of their game and that Woods is fine and will win a few more majors; Hunter Mahan leaving the Canadian Open early to see his wife give birth, which he had no problem with; and what his plans are for the future, which he laughed about and quipped: "I don't even buy green bananas."
Palmer is the honorary chairman for the event and was honored at a $1,000-per-plate charity dinner called "A Tribute to the King."
Palmer said the Mylan Classic, which is part of the Web.com Tour, is special to him because it is in Western Pennsylvania and his grandson, Sam Saunders, is participating.
But beyond the tournament, he also believes the Web.com Tour is essential to the growth of the game and likes that it has now become the most direct route for a player to earn his PGA Tour card.
"My grandson is the one who got me started with a great interest here and of course I am always interested in any golf in Western Pennsylvania," Palmer said.
"That is part of why I have been here and why I like it here as much as I do. And the Web.com Tour is something that is very good and a way of keeping the young people coming into the game."
Palmer, who said he is still active in many charity projects and is currently involved in building golf courses in China and South America, believes two critical areas that need to be improved are the speed of the game and the distance the balls fly.
He said people are too busy to play five- or six-hour rounds and lose interest in the sport as a result, adding that the ball must be changed so players can't hit it so far and take so much of the iron play out of the equation.
He also believes the two changes are intertwined -- that developing balls that don't fly as far will help speed up rounds because players won't be chasing them as far.
"As they continue to do experimental stuff with the clubs and balls, it is going to get to the point where they are going to have to slow down the ball, it isn't going to be a choice," Palmer said. "We can't keep building golf courses longer, I mean we'd have all 600-yard holes.
"These young people keep themselves in shape and as a result of that, they hit the golf ball so far I am embarrassed to go out and play with them anymore with the way they hit it. I think we need to keep them in balance. And I think it will make it speed up the play."
The Mylan Classic runs from Thursday-Sunday at Southpointe near Canonsburg. Tickets are available at www.mylanclassic.com and as part of an initiative called the Ansys Tickets Fore Charity program.
Paul Zeise: email@example.com, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise. First Published July 31, 2013 4:00 AM