No. 3 ranked Amateur David Ford set to play Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill
06 Mar 2024
by Pete Wlodkowski of

see also: Arnold Palmer Cup Matches, Lahinch Golf Club, David Ford Rankings

David Ford (University of North Carolina athletics photo)
David Ford (University of North Carolina athletics photo)

Amateur golfer David Ford of North Carolina will make a start at the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week. His path there didn’t involve a Monday qualifier. Nor did it come to him because he won a major amateur tournament, which is the case with several longstanding PGA Tour event exemptions.

Nor was it a sponsor exemption that is allowing Ford to play the famed Bay Hill Club and Lodge alongside a stacked field that includes Scottie Scheffler.

Rather, Ford has his peers to thank for this opportunity - those who competed alongside him for USA at last year’s Palmer Cup.

Each year, a man and woman are voted upon by their peers to receive exemptions into the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard (and the Amundi Evian Championship) for the women. Ford gained the men’s exemption, while Rachel Kuehn of Wake Forest was awarded the women’s honor.

USA wins 2023 Arnold Palmer Cup World Rankings

While the No. 3-ranked amateur Ford never had the chance to meet Arnold Palmer, the significance of receiving the exemption to a high-profile PGA Tour event via playing the Arnold Palmer Cup has been on his mind for a while.

“I was thinking back to when I caddied in the Palmer Cup a few years ago, remembering so vividly that there was one player designated to get an exemption into that event,” said Ford. “To have my name called is really cool and comes full circle.”

Ford’s humility and interest in making long-lasting friendships are Arnold Palmer qualities to be sure. Palmer had the ability to make eye contact with everyone in the gallery, and everyone who met him during a visit to Latrobe Country Club in Pennsylvania would attest to his interest in going the extra mile to make their trip special.

Ford, by way of his peer selection, was the man for the exemption this year, and he clearly has the game to be competitive. His career scoring average of 70.22 is not only the best in UNC history, it also includes several rounds of 62, including a big one at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach during the 2022 Jackson T. Stephens Cup.

The connection between his peer vote exemption and Arnold Palmer’s legendary personality hasn’t escaped him.

“It’s a huge compliment to be voted as one who embodies some of the qualities that Mr. Palmer had,” Ford told the Orlando Sentinel. “The biggest thing that comes to mind is the way he treated people. It didn’t matter if you were a fan or it was your first Tour event or you were in the Hall of Fame, he talked to you intentionally and he treated you the same as everybody else and wanted to know about you.”

Ford won’t have his twin brother Maxwell on the bag this week. Rather, that honor will go to Will Kane, a former UNC teammate. Kane’s involvement with the College Golf Fellowship has fostered Ford’s faith while attending UNC; it also helped him secure a practice round on Tuesday with world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, the 2022 API champion.

The twin Fords, by the way, did fulfill a lifelong dream by playing a PGA Tour event together at the RSM Classic in November. David finished a single shot above the cut line at 3-under, while Maxwell also missed the cut at even par.

At, we also hope for high finishes by the “non-pros.” Is it too much to ask for another win in 2024 like Nick Dunlap achieved in Palm Springs?

The Orlando Sentinel contributed background information and quotes to this story.

ABOUT THE Palmer Cup

The annual Ryder Cup-style competition features top men and women collegiate players from the United States against their International counterparts.

Each team will be comprised of 12 men's and 12 women's golfers. Day one will feature Mixed Four-Ball competition, day two will see Mixed Foursomes in the morning and Four-Ball in the afternoon, with 24 singles matches on the final day.

View Complete Tournament Information

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