Celebrating our nation's bravest at the AT&T National
June 27, 2012
By Pam Chvotkin, Special to PGATOUR.com
Service. Military. Charity. The atmosphere on the eve of the AT&T National was emotional. The outpouring of support for military days before July 4th weekend was shown proudly by wounded warriors, several members of our United States Congress, the Tiger Woods Foundation, and thousands of volunteers who helped make an event like this possible. Members Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Coast Guard sat together during the opening ceremonies. Golf is such a unique sport in itself, but to have this tournament return to the Capital area is really special.
Using a sport to foster community, golf raises more money for charity than all other sports combined. That is pretty telling for a day like today, being in awe ofthose that have proudly served our country. I had the opportunity to follow several members of Congress in attendance today, including Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA), Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ), Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA). Before returning to Capitol Hill, the congressmen and several other prominent members of the golf world took a mini tour around Congressional led by Tiger Woods Foundation Director of Communications, Arthur Brown. Giving insights on important numbers of the tournament during a small luncheon in the clubhouse to start off the tour, all agreed that gaining support for veterans has been an important goal. The tour began at the Support Our Heroes Wall, followed by golf cart rides to the merchandise tent.
Rounding out the course was a tour of the media center, and to the first tee for opening ceremony festivities. There was a heartfelt meet and greet with soldiers and Tiger. The emotion was real and genuine. The Marine Corps Drill Team put on an exciting performance using eleven-pound M1 garand rifles with bayonets. The focus and concentration the Drill Team requires left the fans awe-struck and impressed.
Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry was the featured speaker, earning the prestigious Congressional Medal of Honor last year from President Barack Obama. He became the just second living recipient of the Medal of Honor for fighting in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He has won a series of deserving awards including two Bronze Star medals and a Purple Heart. He spoke about his golf connection, having never played until he returned from combat. Having lost his right arm during a firefight in Afghanistan, he now dons a prosthetic one. He called it his "single digit handicap," where even the most serious of onlookers cracked a smile. He compared golf to the military, offering some similarities. "Both are challenging, requiring practice and conditioning, and both require integrity and honor." He also mentioned how therapeutic the environment of the links is.
The ceremony continued with a beautiful rendition of the national anthem, followed by Tiger, Nicholas Joy and Sarah Hesterman, children of local military families kicking off the week with the first drive. Being on the first tee in perfect weather with a brisk breeze, it set the bar high for an enjoyable week here at Congressional.
Pam Chvotkin, freelance sports media professional from the Washington, DC metro area.
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