STATE COLLEGE — Golf legend Arnold Palmer was given a Happy Valley welcome Thursday afternoon.
The golf legend turned 84 Tuesday, and was greeted with a chorus of “Happy Birthday” led by the Nittany Knights Barbershop Chorus when he stopped at The Village at Penn State.
Palmer was invited to the facility to help introduce The Village’s newest project, Palmer Park, a planned multipurpose outdoor recreation area.
Palmer made remarks about the park and mingled with more than 150 Village residents, who snapped photos and got his autograph, before he flew back to the Pittsburgh-area.
“How many people can say they got to meet and shake the hands of Arnold Palmer?” resident Chick King said.
“He’s aged a little bit, but he’s still handsome,” Elsa Dorsey said.
Palmer, a Latrobe native, was the PGA Tour player of the year in 1960 and 1962, and won seven major tournaments, including four victories at The Masters.
Village Executive Director Ellen Corbin said that about nine months ago, The Village teamed up with Arnold Palmer Design Co. and Liberty Lutheran to design the park.
“As people age, we want them to keep an active lifestyle going,” Corbin said. “This is our opportunity to combine his design and bring it into here and create many different things.”
There is no timeline on the project, but designers said it would include a 10,000-square-foot golf practice green; space for croquet, lawn bowling and gatherings; connected walkways; and a wellness area.
Corbin would also not release the cost of the park.
“It’s always nice when you can give back to a community you so deeply care about,” Palmer told the CDT.
Palmer said he used to make several visits to the State Collage-area as far back as his early high school years and later as three of his children attended Penn State.
“This is going to allow residents and guests to sharpen their short game, while having a place to mingle with their neighbors,” Palmer said. “We’re building something they can really enjoy.”
Thad Layton, a designer with the Arnold Palmer Design Co., said this is the first announced Palmer Park in the country. Layton said dozens more parks of this nature will be built around the world, and will incorporate the best of golf and landscaping.
In addition, the grounds will include water features and a town clock as a central focal point of the park.
On Thursday, residents said they were thrilled to be getting an outdoor facility that would cater to their wellness needs.
“It’s an amazing addition to the facility,” King said, who has been a Village resident since 2010. “The ambiance of the whole thing is great and targets everyone’s wellness needs, from golfing to walking or those who want to take in the sunset.
“It’s a win-win for everyone.”
There are chipping and putting greens in the plans for the park. But for King and others who don’t play golf, the walking paths will allow resident to be more mobile.
“It’s really going to allow people such as myself to get more exercise and be outdoors,” King said. “I think those walking paths are something everyone can take advantage of.”
Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.