Plunkett brothers stand out for an Army program that marches to its own beat

Courtesy of Brian Watts

Plunkett brothers stand out for an Army program that marches to its own beat

College

Plunkett brothers stand out for an Army program that marches to its own beat

BURLINGTON, Iowa – Matthew Plunkett shot an AT4 rocket launcher at an old tank during “Beast,” or cadet basic training, last summer. The tank exploded and set a field on fire.

“That was awesome,” said Plunkett, grinning.

Welcome to West Point.

Army golfers in general stand out, but Plunkett and his brother Marcus even more so: Matthew, a freshman, stands 6 feet 6 inches, and Marcus, a senior, is 6-5.

“Yes ma’am” and “Yes sir” flows naturally. Marcus was the first to walk over and extend a hand. The brothers, from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., are formal and friendly, mature beyond their years.

Army golfers are an impressive bunch, and they field questions from “regular” teams wherever they go. No doubt they’ll get more than a few this week when Army makes it debut at the Golfweek Conference Challenge at Spirit Hollow Golf Course.

What time do you get up?

Matthew, like the rest of the freshman class, is up at 0600 hours, or 6 a.m., for mandatory breakfast and then 0630 formation. Marcus gets an extra 30 minutes of sleep.

Plebes, or freshmen, take care of housekeeping duties for upperclassmen. They take out out trash, sweep the halls, do their laundry.

It took Matthew a couple of days to get used to people yelling at him mere inches from his face.

“I was one of the tallest people there,” he said, “but I felt like the smallest.”

What happens after you graduate?

Marcus finds out his branch in the middle of November. He will be commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation and will lead a platoon.

Last summer, he spent three weeks in Alaska with an infantry unit to see what Army life is like outside of West Point.

Cadets try to squeeze in summer golf whenever possible.

All West Point athletes go to practice at 1500 hours. They have until dinner at 1900 to hone their skills. Matthew said he’s typically in the books until 1 a.m.

“I can fall asleep anywhere,” he said of his level of fatigue.

Already, Marcus can see a change in his younger brother.

“It’s really unbelievable how much West Point makes you mature,” Marcus said.

West Point athletes must have superb time-management skills to succeed. Coach Brian Watts, who came to Army in 2010 from Oregon State, knows his athletes are a unique bunch.

“You have to have a connection and communication to understand what energy level they are going to have and how are we going to be most efficient,” he said. “Some days, you have to shut it down early.”

The Plunketts’ grandfather served in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II, but the brothers had no connection to West Point. Marcus concedes he knew nothing about Army golf when he received a recruiting letting in the mail from Watts. The Plunkett family are members at TPC Sawgrass.

Marcus did his research and discovered it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“If you think about it, for every citizen, the U.S. has given you so much,” Marcus said. “To give, at a minimum, of five years of my life … it’s a privilege.”

Matthew enrolled at West Point to be with Marcus. They are a tight pair, though their games are decidedly different. Though both can bomb it 300 yards off the tee, Watts said Marcus takes a more aggressive approach to Matthew’s methodical and conservative nature.

Next week is the annual Army vs. Navy match in Annapolis, Md., and the Plunkett brothers hope to be partners.

Marcus, who is 3-0 against Navy, said he’d never felt nerves at a golf tournament as he did as a freshman at that dual match. He was shaking over the first tee shot.

“There’s just a culture at West Point,” he said. “Beat Navy over everything.”

But can beating Navy compare with the rush of blowing up a tank?

Little brother will find out soon enough.

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