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Watch the Emotional First Tee Tribute to the Late Arnold Palmer at The Masters

It was a bittersweet opening to The Masters on Thursday morning, as the greatest week of the golf year kicked off with a solemn goodbye to one of the game’s legends.

In the traditional first tee ceremony, Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Billy Payne laid out a green jacket (historically given to the tournament’s champion) over an empty chair to honor the passing of Arnold Palmer, who died last September.

Payne then gave a moving speech to the large crowd gathered at the first tee to honor Palmer, known to his legions of fans as “The King.”

For the first time in many, many decades, someone is obviously missing from the first tee here at Augusta National and The Masters. The almost unbearable sadness we all feel at the passing of Arnold Palmer is surpassed only by the love and affection for him, which will forever reside in our hearts. Arnold Palmer was more than The King, a title he justifiably deserved by virtue of his four Masters victories and more than 70 PGA Tour and Senior Tour wins. Arnold Palmer was my friend. He was your friend. Despite all of his fame and fortune, he always had time for all of us. A smile, an autograph, a photo. He was always giving. But it still hurts so bad that he is not here with us today.

Payne was accompanied by Palmer’s widow, Kit Gawthrop, as well as golf greats and Palmer pals Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. As per Masters custom, Player and Nicklaus then hit the ceremonial first tee shots to officially kick off the tournament.

Watch above, via CBS.

[featured image via screengrab]

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Joe DePaolo is a Senior Editor at Mediaite. Email him here: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @joe_depaolo