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Phil and Amy Mickelson host “Birdies for the Brave” Military Appreciation Gala and Golf Event at TPC Sawgrass

November 30, 2012

By Michael Curet, Contributor

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- When Phil and Amy Mickelson came up with the idea for “Birdies for the Brave” a few years ago, they knew they could count on the help and support of their friends. And they dreamed big.

In an emotional opening ceremony of the inaugural “Birdies for the Brave” Military Appreciation Gala and Golf Event at TPC Sawgrass Friday morning, the Mickelsons not only realized they had more friends than they ever thought possible, but also that dreams really do come true.

Headlining a long list of those participating in the two-day event were former U.S. President Bill Clinton and 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus.

“I’m grateful to Phil and Amy for doing this,” President Clinton said. “I hope it will increase the awareness to the American people that these last two conflicts that we’ve fought are not like any in our nation’s history in the sense that we had a far higher rate of survivors. Therefore, we have a far higher percentage of those who serve who come home bearing various wounds of war than ever before. We also have this bizarre situation where a lot of these men and women have extraordinary training in the military but have had difficulty finding work or finding work for the skills they actually have. The American people need to know that and we need to stay at this until we have fully integrated all our veterans back into civilian life in a positive way and done the best we possibly can to help people who are wounded to do as well as they can for the rest of their lives. They need our ongoing support.”

Grammy-winning recording artists Darius Rucker and Vince Gill were also present and will conclude the two-day celebration Saturday night with a military appreciation concert at the Times-Union Center in Jacksonville.

“Anytime you can help the veterans or current military and especially their families, I want to do all I can to help,” Rucker said. “They deserve a lot more than they get.”

Among some of the notables participating in the weekend with Mickelson are Vijay Singh, David Duval, Bob Duval, Bud Cauley, Craig Stadler, Kevin Stadler, Kenny Perry, Jonas Blixt, Peter Jacobsen, Hubert Green, Bubba Dickerson, Fuzzy Zoeller, Billy Kratzert, Jim Thorpe, Jan Stephenson, JoAnne Carner, Deane Beman, Mark O’Meara, Andy Bean, Larry Nelson, Chip Beck, Juli Inkster, Mark Lye, Loren Roberts, and Bruce Fleischer.

“The players have been involved from the inception,” said Mickelson, whose attorney Glenn Cohen of Jacksonville first began talking to his client about such an event about five years ago. “To all come together has been so exciting for us as players and be part of this great opportunity to do something and show how much we care, love and respect our military and appreciate living in this great country.”

Mickelson thanked The Greenbrier resort owner Jim Justice and his wife Cathy for their key role in making this event possible.

“It’s all about sacrifice and what these wonderful brave men and women are doing every day,” Justice said. “Our part is a grain of sand. When Phil called and asked if we could be part of this, it just touched my heart in a lot of ways. It’s an honor for us to be here.”

Mickelson added, “We all have a responsibility -- whether we’re on the front line or a civilian to make sure that the men and women that do put their lives on the line know how much we appreciate it, respect it, understand it and never take it for granted. We say thank you for everything you’ve done.”

Before PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem delivered opening remarks, the ceremony began with the presentation of colors by the NAS Jax color guard and a sterling rendition of the national anthem by Petty Officer Laura Carey in front of a Black Hawk Helicopter brought onto the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse lawn for the occasion, as flags waved before a slight breeze on the near-perfect sunny autumn day.

“We are pleased to assist Amy and Phil in their efforts today to make this event very impactful,” Finchem said. “As you look around the TOUR, you can see that our tournaments are committed to recognizing the service of our men and women in uniform. We’ve had thousands of men and women perish in two wars over the past 10 years. We’ve also had thousands of men and women come back from combat either physically or mentally impaired. They and their families need support. That takes money. We want to help tell that story.”

The Commissioner recognized Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in attendance and applauded him for creating a "jobs for veterans" program. “They are programs developing all over the country like that,” Finchem added. “Part of our job every week on PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and Tour is to reach out to the business community and encourage them to prioritize the hiring of our veterans, men and women who have sacrificed for our country.”

Also recognized were Army Gen. Doug Brown (Ret.) and Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Michael Thornton.

Profits from the weekend event will benefit nine military home front groups that are part of Birdies for the Brave and which are supported by PGA TOUR players. These groups include the Special Operations Warrior Foundation; Homes for Our Troops; Navy SEAL Foundation; Operation Homefront; Military Warriors Support Foundation; Green Beret Foundation; United Through Reading; Wounded Warrior Project; and K9s for Warriors.

In 2005, the PGA TOUR adopted Phil and Amy Mickelson’s idea of Birdies for the Brave. Since then, over 100,000 tickets to PGA TOUR tournaments have been donated to military members and their families, 20 mortgage-free homes have been given to Wounded Warriors, 140 college scholarships have been given to deserving children of military families.

Immediately following the opening ceremonies, while the golf participants headed to the teeing ground, Amy Mickelson helped to host “Operation Shower” for 30 local military moms-to-be whose spouses are deployed members of the U.S. Navy.

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