Golf is right to continue to honor the military

Billy Hurley III finished fourth at AT&T National to climb up the money list on the PGA Tour.

If you think that the words that follow have nothing to do with golf, then you just aren’t paying attention. On July 2, 1776, the second Continental Congress agreed on a resolution of independence from England. Two days later, 56 men signed the document that Thomas Jefferson drafted over two days to declare the United States of America independent from the tyranny of England. The Declaration of Independence is the single most important document ever written on American soil and perhaps the most influential ever witnessed.

Recently a caller to Maginnes on Tap suggested that the PGA Tour should focus less attention on the military. His assertion rightly pointed out that there were heroes doing good work in communities every day that never put on the uniform. They put on nurses' uniforms and doctors' coats or raise funds for needy children and that the PGA Tour should perhaps in some way honor those groups of individuals as well.

I agree that support for our military has become in vogue for PGA Tour events, but I certainly don’t see the problem in that.

On Sunday of the recent AT&T National, as Tiger Woods approached the 18th green at Congressional, he stepped to the left of the fairway to thank the two members of the military who were there as guests of the tournament. What most people didn’t see was that on the 17th hole where members of the military tended the American flag for the players all week, Woods shook hands and thanked them every day. He hardly was alone.

There are few current players who have served, few meaning one. Billy Hurley’s story got the press that it deserved during AT&T week. Standing on the first tee hearing his name announced in the penultimate group on Sunday was touching beyond words. His career will always be defined by the service he gave to the Navy before his journey on the PGA Tour no matter what he does in the future.

The pursuit of playing professional golf is solitary by nature and laden with a type of commitment that few can understand. Because of this commitment, PGA Tour players understand commitment to greatness even if most can’t understand a commitment to something greater than themselves.

I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense. What I mean is that PGA Tour players are willing to sacrifice time away from family for the opportunities of titles and riches. But like most of us, they are astounded by those who are willing to commit to something greater than themselves and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. Thousands in the military do that every day.

When PGA Tour events have a military appreciation day or a military outpost on the grounds where servicemen and -women can take their families, it is an acknowledgement of that sacrifice and nothing more or less. It is a small and hardly adequate thank you.

So many people in the game go well beyond lip service to reaching out to servicemen and -women. In the latest episode of "Feherty," namesake show star David Feherty hosts an event in Oklahoma with Air National Guard Maj. Dan Rooney, founder of the Folds of Honor Foundation. Folds of Honor raises money for the education of fallen service men and women. Feherty calls himself a “turncoat,” jokingly in the episode. He is a former member of the European Ryder Cup team who spends much of his spare time honoring men and women in the U.S. military.

Although Texas hasn’t changed David’s accent, he is one of the most patriotic Americans you will ever meet. At virtually every PGA Tour event that CBS covers, he will have members of the Wounded Warriors with him on the grounds as his guests. If they are able, they walk inside the ropes with him. If not, a cart is provided to make sure they get the opportunity to participate.

So many PGA Tour players and their families have either reached out through charitable arms or actually traveled overseas to spend time with deployed troops. They do this because they want to show their genuine appreciation. They do it without cameras or hope of acknowledgement. They do it because they know that without those men and women, the opportunities they enjoy would not be possible.

This week we celebrate our freedom here in the United States. That freedom came at a price that most of us asked someone else to pay. That freedom continues to come at a price that millions are paying tonight. The PGA Tour and its individual events have taken it upon themselves to honor those who serve more than one day or one week a year. Members of the five branches of the military are honored every week at PGA Tour events.

Over the next several months, we will be inundated by commercials and speeches from people who think that they can make America a better place. And I certainly hope that they can; that is what the founding fathers had in mind. Hopefully those who speak those words live up to their responsibility the same way that those who put on the uniform live up to their own. To those who have served or are serving, we say thank you any way we can. The world of golf could not and would not survive without them.

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