BETHESDA, Md. (July 1, 2009) -- World-class golfer Tiger Woods honored U.S. military servicemembers by hosting the Earl Woods Memorial Pro-Am golf tournament at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., during the Fourth of July weekend.
At the opening ceremony, wounded warriors were treated to a precision performance by the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard Drill Team and Jessica Simpson singing the National Anthem.
Continuing the military tribute, the 101st Airborne Division Parachute Demonstration Team's Screaming Eagles descended upon the Club's hole No. 1 in a four-man formation to provide Tiger and two wounded Soldiers the golf balls for the ceremonial first tee off and officially kick off to the third AT&T National.
"It's an honor to be part of this tournament. And the fact that Tiger wants to include us servicemembers in something he feels very emotional about means a lot to me," said Maj. Ken Dwyer, who, along with Staff Sgt. Ramon Padilla and Tiger, simultaneously performed the ceremonial first shot.
The Pro-Am tournament was named after Woods' father, who was a Green Beret with the Special Forces in Vietnam. As a military dependent, Tiger has had a healthy understanding of his father's service and a great respect for military members' sacrifices.
"To see what they deal with on a daily basis and what they have to go through because they are putting their lives on the line for us ... Everyone in this room here and everyone should thank all of these servicemembers for what they do," said Woods in a news conference.
As a tribute, AT&T and the Congressional Country Club, which will host the 2011 U.S. Open, made several special provisions for U. S. servicemembers throughout the weekend. Twenty-six active-duty servicemembers representing every branch of the U.S. military were given the chance to act as professional caddies on hole No. 7. They wore special desert-style camo-caddie bibs.
One caddie in particular was more fortunate than others. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Michael Barrett had the opportunity to caddie for two great golfers, Tiger and last year's tournament winner, Anthony Kim.
"It felt great! I should go out and buy a lottery ticket, because the way my luck is going, I might just hit the jackpot," said Barrett. At the end of the 174-yard, par 3 hole, Tiger passed the putter over to Barrett and told him to hit it in.
Unfortunately, Barrett, a 16-year Marine Corps military police officer, couldn't seal the deal. A few minutes later, Tony Romo, quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, who played alongside Tiger during the tournament, offered Barrett a second chance. But he missed that putt too.
"I know I'm gonna get it from my boys back home because I missed both putts. But it was still a great experience," Barrett said.
In addition to discounts on the course and 30,000 complimentary tickets for military servicemembers and their dependents, a care package tent was set up to encourage spectators to visit and build care packages that will be sent to deployed troops overseas. AT&T is expecting to send out about 5,000 care packages.
Lockhead Martin joined in the tribute by setting up a military pavilion open to all military ticket holders. Military members were provided the VIP experience which included snacks, beverages, and a prime viewing area of the par-72 course covering 7,173 yards.