All-Army teams win silver medals at Armed Forces Golf Championships
October 29, 2010
LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. - Bronze medalist Capt. Daniela Kessler and fourth-place finisher Capt. Austin Luher led the All-Army Golf Teams to runner-up finishes behind All-Air Force at the 2010 Armed Forces Golf Championships Oct. 23-26 at Eaglewood Golf Course.
Kessler, 29, of Kaiserslautern, Germany, posted scores of 80-79-77-80 - 316 to finish third among women behind Navy Lt. Nicole Johnson (295) of Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., and Air Force Capt. Linda Jeffery (297) of Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.
"[Johnson and Jeffery] are great, great golfers," said Kessler, who golfed for Wingate University from 2000 until 2004. "They are somewhere between college Division I and the LPGA levels. They strike the ball extremely well.
"I played well considering the fact that I have not been practicing golf and have not played in a tournament since 2004. It was a great opportunity to meet the other service members. They are great competitors. I really look forward to coming back next year if I'm not deployed. I have a lot of work to do, but at least now I know what the competition is like."
Maj. Sunny Mitchell (338) of Fort Knox, Ky., and Lt. Col. Jennifer Jensen (350) of Redstone Arsenal, Ala., completed the silver medalist All-Army women's squad.
Luher, 27, of Fort Carson, Colo., posted scores of 74-73-77-74 - 298 to finish fourth among men behind the All-Air Force trio of 2nd Lt. Thomas Whitney (280) of Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.; Chief Master Sgt. Mark Gardiner (288) of Scott Air Force Base, Ill.; and Tech Sgt. Michael Membrila (291) of Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
"I played solid for all four days - just got my way around the golf course, didn't make too many mistakes, and made a few birdies," Luher said. "It was a pretty tough golf course with the conditions and the wind."
The military golfers endured a rainy Monday and got drenched during Tuesday's final round.
"That always throws an extra stroke or two into your score," Luher said. "It was tough out there."
Toss in the pressure of representing an installation and branch of service, and the tension grows.
"Four days - it's a long tournament," Luher said. "There's a little bit of nerves on a few shots. They announce your name (when teeing off on No. 1). It's definitely a lot different than going out on Saturday morning with your buddies.
"They make the course 20 times harder than it ever would be. The greens are so much faster. The pins are in crazy spots. It's definitely a lot different than just your average round."
Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Hallauer (299) of Fort Bliss, Texas, finished seventh for the silver medalist All-Army men, followed by teammates Capt. Patrick Hawthorne (305) of Fort Shafter, Hawaii; Capt. Michael Quigg (311) of Fort Gordon, Ga.; Capt. Robert Castor (311) of Fort Carson, Colo.; and Sgt. Shawn Whitmore (334) of Fort Bragg, N.C.
"We work so hard day in and day out, but this team probably will have 100 percent turnover next year with deployments, guys going off to school, and just not being able to come to this," said Luher, who golfed for the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., from 2002-2006. "The camaraderie of getting everybody together to play a little golf is phenomenal. It's kind of a little reward for us, and the competition is fun, too.
"We have a lot of good people from across the Army that certainly could compete in this and make the team. Just having more Soldiers know that there is All-Army, Armed Forces and CISM golf available would help us compete at a higher level."
Men's gold medalist Whitney went from captaining the United States Air Force Academy team in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he graduated in May, to leading All-Air Force to an Armed Forces championship in the same golf season.
"This is pretty cool," he said. "Some people call it beginner's luck."
Whitney was impressed with the Armed Forces' level of play.
"There are a lot of good players out here," he said. "They are kind of just hiding among the military. I didn't know how many good players would be here. I'd say there are a lot more grinders on the college level because they're used to competing every week and these guys don't have as much competition experience, but it was just as fun."
Coming off back-to-back deployments, women's gold medalist Johnson exceeded her expectations.
"I haven't been playing much, but I'll take what I got," said Johnson, who prevailed over Linda Jeffery, a five-time Armed Forces champion. "We played in 2005 and it came down to the last putt on the last hole - a lot like this one, which came down to the last hole.
"We decided that we need to go somewhere and play a tournament on the same team because we actually get along very well and have fun playing with each other."
Johnson, 30, played golf for Montgomery High School in Texas and Baylor University from 1998-2002. Burnout prevented her from considering turning pro, but she discovered another passion with the Air Force.
"I really love flying," Johnson said. "I fly F-18s now. Just did two deployments. I've been doing that since 2006, and I really love it. It's a good mission - helps the guys on the ground."