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Operation One Voice: Champions on and off the course

One of the members of Operation One Voice tees off, while Champions Tour player Mark O'Meara and his caddie, Shane Joel, look on.

April 19, 2013

By Abby Liebenthal, Special to

DULUTH, Ga.—Before teeing off on a serene and tranquil TPC Sugarloaf, Champions Tour player Mark O'Meara shook hands with four amateur players at the Greater Gwinnett Championship Pro-Am. O’Meara has done this routine plenty of times, playing in numerous pro-ams in his professional career. His pro-am round this day would be different. This was no ordinary group of novice golfers. The quartet all had unique military backgrounds that had covertly taken them to the four corners of the world—all in the name of freedom. It was now their time to give back in the name of their fellow military comrades.  

The endeavor is called Operation One Voice, and the Gwinnett Sports Commission hosted each of these wounded warriors from the Special Operations community to two days of golf, first playing with Tour player D.A. Weibring on Wednesday and then O’Meara on Thursday. This group all served several tours of duty in various war zones all over the world and had been injured fighting against forces like the Taliban or Al-Qaeda.

Operation One Voice is a program that supports the needs of children and families of wounded and fallen Special Operations Forces. These include the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and Marine Force Special Operations Command. The organization’s goal is to raise funds and awareness for the financial need of these families.

“People may know what a soldier goes through, but these organizations like (Operation) One Voice that take care of us are just phenomenal,” said Rocky Marciano, a Marines Special Forces member who had been wounded and suffered combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder.  “It’s not about the golf, it’s about being able to decompress and enjoy some of the finer things in life. To me, this is a real special treat. You get out here and you forget everything else.”

Watching the group play from tee to green, one could see that they did not have significant golf backgrounds. But the sense of joy and relaxation, while sharing stories of their time overseas and poking fun at one another, made it evident that golf allowed for an escape.

“They had the right attitudes, which is key. Today was about having fun,” said O’Meara, a two-time major champion, with 16 PGA TOUR titles and a pair of Champions Tour wins. “They’re going to hit a few good shots, which they did, and they had a lot of bad ones, which was OK. They don’t have to worry about making their living doing this. They’re just enjoyed the day, and that’s the great thing about golf, that we can do this kind of stuff.”

Thursday was Marciano’s first experience with Operation One Voice, which he said provides many outlets for him and other wounded warriors such as hunting or hiking.

“I’m a golfer. You wouldn’t know it by my game, but I enjoy golf and to me this is a special treat,” Marciano said. “Playing with Mark, you just wish you could always be teamed up with someone like that every time you go out on the course.”

For O’Meara, it was an honor for him to give back to those who have served their time on duty and listen to their stories.

“I think it’s important to show that we care, what it means to us to have them serve our country,” O’Meara said. “A little smile or a handshake or sign of appreciation is all it takes sometimes to make someone feel special or better about their day.” 

On the par-3 16th hole, O’Meara used his impeccable golf game as an additional way to show his appreciation, making a hole-in-one for this unique group of America heroes.  

For more information on Operation One Voice click here.

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