By Staff Sgt. John PortelaJanuary 19, 2018
HONOLULU, HI - Fourteen Soldiers from the 8th Theater Sustainment Command had the opportunity to caddie the 18th hole for the Sony Open in Hawaii on Jan. 10, 2018 at the Waialae Country Club as part of the Birdies for the Brave program.
"It was pretty unique. I never got up close and personal with the pros," said 1st Lt. Kyle Golonski, Platoon Leader for the 561st Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade. "I only see them on TV. It was pretty cool getting to talk to them about normal things. It kind of puts it in perspective they're just a bunch of normal guys."
Birdies for the Brave is a national military outreach initiative dedicated to honoring and showing appreciation to the courageous men and women of the United States Armed Forces and their families.
In 2004, Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) Tour player Phil Mickelson and his wife Amy, created the program to support combat-wounded veterans. The PGA Tour adopted the program and expanded it to include a wide variety of military outreach and appreciation activities during PGA Tour events.
"This was probably my favorite day in Hawaii so far, two years in," said Spc. Corey McMullin, a intelligence analyst in the 8th TSC G-2.
This year was the 20th Anniversary of the Sony Open in Hawaii, and the seventh consecutive year that the Birdies for the Brave Military Caddie program was presented by Pasha Hawaii. While the Soldiers took turns caddying, they also had lots of time to collect autographs and get to know the players and their professional caddies.
"Just the experience of being here, and to see what this event looks like as well as being able to tell our story to the golfers has been great. A lot of them don't know what we do in protecting our country, so they really appreciate hearing about it," said Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Poetsch, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, Human Resources Sustainment Center, noncommissioned officer in charge.
As the players and their caddies entered the 18th fairway tee box, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Eric Geraci, the military liaison for the U.S. Army and Pasha Hawaii, greeted the players and introduced each Soldier by name. The service members then relieved the player's regular caddie of his bag and acted as a real caddie for the 18th hole.
"It was a great opportunity to actually be one-on-one with the pro golfers, just talking to them like a normal person. They didn't treat me any differently, so that was probably the best part of it," Staff Sgt. Oscar Hernandez, a motor sergeant for the 561st Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade. "Any Soldiers next year should definitely sign up for it. It's an experience you don't get to do normally just anywhere, so take a chance, it's a good experience to have."