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McGraw Headlines PLAYERS' Military Appreciation Day

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May 6, 2010

By Michael Curet

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.—In what resembled a Sunday gallery on the 18th at THE PLAYERS Championship, thousands came to watch three-time Grammy Award-winning country music artist Tim McGraw put an exclamation point on this year’s Military Appreciation Day. And he didn’t disappoint.

The crowds extended far beyond the grounds near holes 16 and 18 at TPC Sawgrass and well past the packed lawn of the clubhouse, which featured a colorful array of uniformed soldiers lined along the balconies.
U.S. combat veterans making up the band 4Troops kicked off the program by performing “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The crowd then stirred with a picturesque flyover by the Blue Angels, which flew over the 17th hole, down the 16th and 18th fairways and over the clubhouse. After the jets, the floor belonged to Navy Band Southeast, which warmed up the crowd before the arrival of McGraw.

When McGraw finally took the stage in his trademark blue jeans and black cowboy hat, he rang out a near four-minute rendition of his smash hit “Southern Voice” much to the crowd’s delight.

“We want to thank the military for taking care of us,” said McGraw. “We also want to thank THE PLAYERS for having us, and I want to thank everybody for showing up.”

McGraw and two members of his band, The Dancehall Doctors, continued into “Where the Green Grass Grows,” the ballad “Everywhere” and “Something Like That.”

The singer dedicated his final number, “If You’re Reading This,” to all the U.S. men and women serving in the military.

McGraw shared the stage with another military honoree, Southeast Region Sailor of the Year Monica Nelson, who is stationed at NAS Jacksonville.

“I’m definitely a fan,” said Nelson. “We talked about hunting and fishing because he likes to hunt and fish just like I do.”

Several PGA TOUR players, some with morning tee times Thursday, were in attendance to see McGraw and show their support for the troops.

The only thing that drew more cheers on the evening than McGraw’s 25-minute, five-song set was when PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem surprised expectant military wife and mother Trudy Thompson by introducing her husband—Petty Officer Fabian Thompson, who had been serving overseas on the USS Sullivan and was not expected to see the birth of their second child.

“Why did we go to the trouble to help this family get together when there are so many families that are apart?” Finchem posed the question. “The reason we do is to call attention to the sacrifice that these families do make.”

The Thompson family embraced to a standing ovation. “Words cannot express how I feel right now,” said Petty Officer Thompson. “I found out only two days before flying out.”

Finchem spoke about last Saturday’s unveiling of the latest PGA TOUR military program “Operation Shower.” With the help of the March of Dimes, the program threw a “baby shower” for 35 expectant mothers whose husbands are serving around the globe and will not be here for the birth of their children.

Also recognized on the podium was two-time PLAYERS champ Hal Sutton, celebrating the 10th anniversary of his victory in 2000. He, too, expressed his heartfelt thanks to the United States military.

“Not too many people know this, but when I was Ryder Cup captain I chose a color from each branch of the military to make up our uniforms,” said Sutton. “We may not have won the Ryder Cup that year, but we wore our colors with honor.”

Finchem closed by saying, “To each man and woman in uniform, we appreciate your dedication, your commitment, your perseverance, your passion and the sacrifices you and your families make on behalf of our great country.”

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