PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - While the biggest draw Feb. 6 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am were the dozen celebrities participating in the 3M Celebrity Challenge, event organizers increased their effort this year to recognize the large number of service members in attendance during the tournament's Military Appreciation Day.

Tournament director and Monterey Peninsula Foundation Chief Executive Officer Steve John kicked off the 3M Celebrity Challenge by leading the crowd in an enthusiastic round of applause directed towards the men and women serving in the military. It was an applause that equaled, if not surpassed, the introduction of ever-popular Pebble Beach regular actor Bill Murray. It was also an applause that was repeated multiple times and in multiple locations throughout the five-hole event as spectators showed their generous support for our men and women in uniform.

Continuing a four-year tradition, musician Kenny G once again invited service members to act as his caddie for the charity event. Kenny G's playing partner, sportscaster Chris Berman, also elected to forgo his caddie to allow additional service members to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Senior Airmen Colton Garrett, from the Presidio of Monterey's 311th Training Squadron, was the acting caddie for Kenny G on the world-famous Pebble Beach hole-18.

"It was absolutely incredible to be able to take a day off from the hard work and be able to relax with the beautiful scenery and chat with the celebrities," said Garrett. "They are much more relaxed and personable than I thought they would be. Every time I went to ask them for an autograph, they would sincerely be thanking me for what I do. We think of these people as being above the clouds, and here they are being unbelievably thankful for what it is we do; it felt surreal and humbling."

"I have always been proud to serve in our military and especially the Air Force, but this refreshes that feeling," added Garrett. "This has been the best day I've had in a long time."

A large number of uniformed service members were allowed special access to walk the course this year, getting an unobstructed view and the chance to mingle with the celebrity players during the event. The large majority of these service members were Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center students, located nearby at the Presidio of Monterey.

A new addition to the 3M Celebrity Challenge was the inclusion of a $100,000 prize for the celebrity's-designated charity if he was able to sink a hole-in-one on Pebble's par 3, 17th hole. After each celebrity tried, unsuccessfully, a call was put out by tournament organizers to give a member of the military a shot.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven Quackenbush, from the Center for Information Dominance Unit Monterey, stepped up to represent the military. Although given two tries and a (un)lucky hat supplied by actor Andy Garcia, the pressure seemed to be a little overwhelming for Quackenbush. His shots fell well short of the mark.

"I was super nervous and started shaking almost immediately," admitted Quackenbush. "Fortunately I got two shots at it, unfortunately they were both awful. At least Andy Garcia said I looked like a pro, I don't think that was the case though."

However, Quackenbush did not leave empty handed for his efforts, actor Josh Duhamel gave Quackenbush one of his golf clubs to keep as a memento.

Also for the first time this year, tournament director John gathered celebrity players with a large group of service member on the green of the 18th hole immediately after the conclusion of play.

After relocating the large number of media photographers and cameramen so the spectators in the grandstands had an unobstructed view, John passed the microphone to singer Huey Lewis to lead everyone in a rendition of "America the Beautiful."

It was a fitting and patriotic conclusion to an unforgettable day for the lucky service members who made the journey to Pebble Beach. This year the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am organizers, participants and spectators truly epitomized the idea of "appreciation" during this year's Military Appreciation Day.

Page last updated Fri February 8th, 2013 at 00:00