By Nancy Gould, Hunter Army Airfield Public AffairsApril 29, 2010
SAVANNAH, Ga. -Four servicemembers stood side-by-side on the luscious greens of the Westin's Savannah Harbor Golf Resort, April 22. The cool morning air was damp as golfers took their places on the 7th hole for the 7 a.m. shotgun start on day two of Liberty Mutual Legends Pro Am. Playing with them was senior golf legend Joey Sindelar; teeing off on the hole after them was golf legend Ken Green.
It was single-digit handicaps that attested to their golfing skills, earning Sgt. Chris Wiley, 2nd Beach and Terminal Operations Company, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve; Sgt. 1st Class Chris Gray, 260th Quartermaster Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade; Staff Sgt. Cory Burns, 15th Air Operations Squadron, U.S. Air Force; and Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Morehouse, U.S. Coast Guard, Air Station Savannah; their position on the greens, courtesy of local contributors who seized the opportunity as a way to express gratitude to active-duty military members for their service.
The servicemembers also expressed appreciation to play in such an elite venue. The Pro-Am precedes the formal tournament and features the greatest names in golf playing in a team, best-ball format.
The group played 16 under par on Thursday and 29 under par for the combined tournament, said Sgt. Wiley.
"This has been awesome," said Sgt. 1st Class Gray, adding that the group felt humbled to play in the presence of golfing greatness.
"Seeing champions like Tom Watkins is a thrill," said Staff Sgt. Burns.
On day one of the tournament, Jim Albus played with the military team; on day two, Joey Sindelar. The pros interact with the Pro-Am teams and gave tips and strategy about how to improve their game.
For Petty Officer 1st Class Moorehouse, the biggest thrill of the event was to tee off from the same hole as golf legend Ken Green. He admires Green for his golf record but also for returning to the tour after losing his leg in an automobile accident last June. Green also lost his fiancAfAe, his brother and his dog in that accident, and in January, his 21-year old son away at college was found dead.
"Besides a great golfer, Ken showed the world that determination conquers all," said Petty Officer 1st Class Moorehouse.
"On Thursday, our pro, Joey Sindelar watched me struggle with my swing on the first tee," he continued. "He told me how to fix it, and I ended up playing the best game of my life."
The respect was shared by the pros.
"It is my pleasure to play with these guys," said Sindelar, who also expressed thanks for all they do for this country. "All the tour professionals enjoy our military players. We don't want them to be nervous. We just want them to relax and have fun."
With a handicap of three, Sgt. Chris Wiley was the most accomplished of the foursome.
"I've been playing since I was 8-years-old," he said. "Besides playing with the legends, I'd say the best part was making new friends. We exchanged numbers and will definitely play together in the future."
Leaders of Liberty Mutuals' Legends said military participation was a highlight of the week.
"We were honored to have the group of players from Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield," said Joe Rotellini, executive director of the tournament. "I can't think of a better way to give back to the military than to include these players in our Pro-Am and to give our military community free admission to the tournament."
Liberty Mutual also gives back to the military through its "Birdies for Charity" program that benefits the Chaplain's Fund at Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield. For every birdie made on the four Par-three holes during the tournament (Friday - Sunday) Liberty Mutual donates $100. For every hole-in-one, the donation goes up to $10,000.
Active duty servicemembers, their Families and retirees were admitted free throughout the week, which ended with the professional legends' tournament on April 25, the same day the tournament honored all active-duty military with a special morning ceremony.