AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am shows appreciation for military
February 16, 2012
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - A person could certainly say the local military was all over this year's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament held Feb. 6-12.
Considering the more than 250 volunteers, Military Day, the Support Our Troops tent, service members providing a pin detail at Pebble Beach's 15th hole and free tickets donated by the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, it would be surprising to not encounter a military member during the tournament.
The military presence was not lost on the professional golfers, celebrities, spectators, media crews, tournament coordinators and volunteers that crowded the Pebble Beach golf courses at the annual popular event. Over the course of the week-long tournament, many of them went out of their way to greet the men and women in uniform, shake hands and thank them for their service.
Along with seeing some amazing golf, service members had a rare opportunity during the week to rub elbows with big name celebrities like Bill Murray, George Lopez, and Ray Romano or star athletes like NFL quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo.
Pfc. Courtney Neuman, 229th Military Intelligence Battalion, was part of a lucky group of service members who were chosen from the crowd by musician Kenny G to act as his caddy during the 3M Celebrity Challenge held on the tournament's Military Day, Feb. 8.
"Kenny G was so down to earth and talked to us throughout the whole event. Bill Murray was really funny and kept cracking me up," Neuman said. "It was incredible to be around everyone, they kept thanking us for our service. It's great that they would do this and show their support in such a public way. Was I star struck? I think that's an understatement. It was overwhelming, but in a great way."
"I think experiences like this remind us in the military why we do what we do. We are here to protect our country," Neuman added.
This was a sentiment echoed by ESPN sportscaster Chris "Boomer" Berman who won the 3M Celebrity Challenge with partner Lucas Black and spent time immediately afterwards signing autographs and posing for photos with service members.
"Right now they are out here having a blast, but think about what their day is tomorrow or next week or next year. They are going to go to a place that we don't want to be and they are going there so that we don't ever have to go there again." Berman said of the service members. "If we can't spend time thanking them, well, we are able to be out here because of what they are doing."
Berman said it made him feel good to see the service members show genuine excitement around the celebrity golfers. "They are thrilled to be here and I am excited to see their faces. Their smiles could light up a room."
One of the best places to be for the active-duty military and retirees at the tournament was during the final rounds along Pebble Beach's 15th hole, called the "military hole" during CBS's national television coverage. The hole was the location of the Support Our Troops hospitality tent and allowed viewing of local service members "tending the pin" at the green.
The Support Our Troops tent was open to all active-duty service members attending the tournament. Along with free food, drinks and souvenirs, the tent provided a place to stay dry during the occasional rain showers that occurred over the weekend.
"The tent is great," said Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Fogarty, one of a dozen service members who comprised the pin-tending detail on Feb. 11. "They gave us food to eat and a place to hangout. Especially with the little bit of rain we got today, having a roof over your head is a benefit."
This is the fifth year there has been a Support Our Troops military-appreciation tent at the AT&T, thanks in large part to the efforts of Bob Sparks who has a 40 year history with the tournament.
"I was a course marshal at the tournament for 35 years, and two days after I resigned from the marshals I got a call from Ollie Nutt [CEO of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation which stages the tournament]. He says come down to my office we need to talk. They wanted to do something with the military and we started talking about the tent," said Sparks. "This wouldn't be possible though without our sponsors and volunteers. Group O provides the tent. Outback Steakhouse, California Pizza and Erik's Deli provided food for no cost. House Distributor brought beer and ice tea. And the volunteers, without them there is no tent."
"The reaction has been unbelievable. The service members keep coming up and thanking me, but I am doing this to thank them," added Sparks. "This has been the best year so far. The media coverage has been great and I think this is a reminder that we haven't forgotten how to treat our military. I will absolutely be doing it again next year and I'll be doing it as long as I can walk. So please come out and enjoy yourselves."