<b> SAVANNAH, Ga. </b> Aca,!" Captain Jeff Meinders watched intently as his drive climbed skyward as if launched from the Apache helicopter he flies as a Soldier in the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment at Hunter Army Airfield.

The golf ball made impact on the fairway some 250 yards from the tee box and rolled another 50 yards.

"Nice shot, kid," said professional golfer Tom Jenkins as Capt. Meinders recovered his tee.

Captain Meinders smiled, acknowledging the compliment from the long-time pro.

Captain Meinders, along with Chief Warrant Officer Matt Campbell of the 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment; Petty Officer Adam Morehouse of the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Savannah; and Spc. David Jarrett, 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment; received complimentary admission to compete in the 32nd annual Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf Pro-Am, April 22-23, at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa.

The Pro-Am, which precedes the formal tournament, features the greatest names in golf playing in a team, best-ball format.

With a long history of supporting charities, it was three years ago that Steve Sullivan, a former Liberty Mutual executive and Vietnam War veteran, decided to include supporting the men and women of the Armed Forces, said tournament director, Tim Iley.

Iley said he could not think of a better way to give back to the military than to offer active-duty servicemembers and their Families free admission, free concessions and a free foursome in the Pro-Am, along with a sizeable donation to the Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield Consolidated Chaplains Fund.

On day one of the two-day tournament, the servicemembers played with Bill Rogers, the 1981 winner of the British Open.

On day two, they played with Tom Jenkins, who has won seven Champions Tour events.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Petty Officer Morehouse. "What an awesome experience to be able to play with these stars on a world-class course."

The pros enjoyed the experience, as well.

"First of all, it's an honor for me to play with guys who are fighting for our country," said Jenkins, whose brother-in-law commanded an aviation battalion in the 1980's. "Second, these guys are very good golfers. Often times in these Pro-Ams, I'm paired with players who are twice (the age of) these guys and have twice their handicaps. We end up chasing balls all over the course throughout the day."

All of the young servicemembers who participated boast single-digit handicaps. Both Rogers and Jenkins took time to give tips to the servicemembers.

"It was very cool, that our two pros took the time to pause and give us pointers," said Spc. Jarrett. "He could just play and not make the effort to teach us. But not our two pros; they are awesome."

Special Jarret said that the pros helped improve his "flop shot," which he explained is used for for hitting the ball high enough to clear danger areas. The shot also keeps the ball from rolling when it lands.

"I wasn't turning my club face enough, nor was I clearing my left side," he said.

The military team played well, finishing tied for 17th place in the 52-team field with a 27 under par 117 for the 36 holes. Captain Meinders, as an individual, shot a 73 on day one. His score even beat his pro that day. Captain Meinders said this was his best round of golf in seven years.

"There is no better time to play your best golf than when you are playing in a venue like this - with a pro and a gallery of people watching," added Capt. Meinders, who played on his high school and college golf teams.

Playing with a team from Georgia Power, Lt. Col. Dan Whitney, Hunter Army Airfield's garrison commander, finished second, with a score of 108 (36 under).

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16