Military Families share golf memories at Tiger Woods tournament 090702
PHOTO CAPTION: AT&T National tournament host Tiger Woods blasts an iron shot during the third annual Earl Woods Memorial Pro-Am on July 1 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. The Tiger Woods Foundation donated 30,000 tickets to the PGA Tour event to U.S. Servicemembers and their Familes. (Photo by Tim Hipps, FMWRC Public Affairs)
Military Families share golf memories at Tiger Woods tournament 090702
By Rob McIlvaine
FMWRC Public Affairs
The 2009 AT&T National at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., brings golf’s finest stars to the nation’s capital while raising funds for the Tiger Woods Foundation and paying tribute to the Armed Forces. The top 120 PGA Tour professionals from around the world are competing for $6 million in prize money.
It takes place from June 30 through Monday, July 5, and is hosted by Tiger Woods.
“I’ve dabbled in golf for a couple of years, but the chance to get out here to see possibly the greatest golfer of all time is thrilling for us,” said Col. Greg Linberis, who started his career in special forces with the National Guard.
His son, Zachary, who joins the U.S. Army Band next year after college graduation, agreed.
“I have a job at the golf course in Sterling and get the chance to play a little more often,” Zachary said. “Watching Tiger Woods and even Tony Romo is inspiring for us.”
The line-up includes newly crowned U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover, defending champion Anthony Kim, three-time major winner Vijay Singh, former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk, Sean O’Hair, and former Masters champion Mike Weir. Each are competing for the winner’s check of $1.8 million.
Lt. Cmdr. Larry Hand retired from the Navy this past January after serving 25 years, the last 15 on board submarines.
He and his wife, Rhonda, came out to watch Tiger and the other professionals for the entire week, staying at a hotel in Bethesda.
“This is a great tournament for the military. After watching it on TV the past two years, it’s wonderful we finally have the chance to walk with these great athletes,” Hand said.
“I didn’t get the free tickets Tiger offered. I just went online and ordered the whole week’s worth so we could spend the 4th of July weekend together and watch how golf is really played,” Hand said.
Tournament officials distributed 30,000 complimentary tickets to the U.S. military. The tickets were distributed by the Pentagon’s Army ITT/ITR office on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets were available for all active duty, reserve, retired, and DoD civilian personnel.
Military Families also were able to sign up online for the chance to meet Tiger.
“We found out we won the contest to meet Tiger about a month ago,” Brad Morris happily announced.
Morris, now retired from the Virginia National Guard, spent 2004 in Iraq.
“We were told they had record sales so the odds of us winning had to be pretty great,” Morris said.
He and wife, Lisa, were treated with many amenities.
“Because we live so close, rather than the plane ride that was part of the winnings, a car was sent to pick us up and drop us off at a Bethesda hotel for three days,” Lisa said.
“I’ve been playing golf for 25 years, but this has to be the most fun we’ve had on a golf course thanks to the Tiger Woods Foundation,” Morris said.
Besides the car ride and the hotel, they also received a Clubhouse pass and attended the Pairings Party where the amateur and professional players are paired up for the tourney.
“What Tiger and his Foundation are doing for the military, and especially our wounded warriors, is really something. We think it’s incredible when celebrities, or anybody for that matter, do anything for our soldiers who are following orders into harm’s way,” Morris said.
Col. Ernest Lockrow, currently Chief of Integrated Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Walter Reed Medical Center, has spent the last 32 years in the military.
“I began my military career as an E-1 in 1976 and then went to West Point. I really like to watch the game of golf so I come out here every year,” Lockrow said.
“All of us very much appreciate what Tiger has done to honor the military. That’s the other reason I like to come out here and what a nice day it is,” Lockrow said.
Greg Kidd, retired from the Army since 1995, caddies part time at Congressional Country Club.
Now a top-rated caddie, Kidd has caddied for many pros and also Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, President Gerald Ford and President Bill Clinton.
“I’ve been coming out here, off and on, since 1972. It’s a good feeling to be part of this tournament,” Kidd said.
Military service members also had the chance to volunteer to help out during the week of the tournament. One of the jobs was to act as starter – a person who announces the players, at each tee.
Staff Sgt. Nick Stanisci with the National Guard Bureau in Arlington is a budget analyst for the recruiting command. But Wednesday, both pros and amateurs looked for him to announce them at the 11th Tee.
“An email was sent out asking for volunteers so here I am. This is my first opportunity for this event,” he said.
A golfer with a handicap of 22, Stanisci understands the game’s triumphs and pitfalls.
“The sound of Tiger hitting the ball…it’s rare to hear the loud crack as he compresses the ball and hits it down the fairway. But not every day can be your best no matter how great you are.
Tiger was the only one so far who put the ball in the water at hole 10,” Stanisci said with a smile on his face.
The military Families had the chance to get some rest from the day’s events at the Lockheed Martin Military Pavilion. Located between the third green and the fourth tee, the pavilion was open to all military ticket holders and provided a VIP experience which included snacks, beverages and a prime viewing area.
Antonio Renovales and his extended Family were taking in the sights underneath an umbrella outside the pavilion.
Renovales, of Puerto Rico, served five years in the U.S. Navy during Korea. His daughter, Norma, retired from the Air Force Reserves after serving 24 years. His son-in-law, Staff Sgt. Frankie Alvarez, retired from the Army after spending 28 “glorious” years in service to his country.
Even though the MWR office was all out of tickets, they were told to go over and show their IDs to be let in.
“We had no problems,” Alvarez said.
Although no one else in his Family, plays golf, Frankie and his son, Alejandro, 17, both play the game.
“We really wanted to see Tiger play but we also appreciate how he supports the military. There’s no better way than giving away tickets, but he does so much more. He gives a lot of his time and earnings to help others,” Alvarez said.
Programs developed and supported by the Tiger Woods Foundation, begun in 1996, all share a similar mission of empowering young people to dream big and set specific goals to achieve their dreams. Programs of the foundation include the Tiger Woods Learning Center, an education facility located in Orange County, Calif., Tiger’s Action Plan, a nationwide character development program, and the Earl Woods Scholarship Fund, a program celebrating Earl Woods’ lifelong dedication to helping young people achieve their dreams.
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