PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - For the second consecutive year service members from the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and Coast Guard Station Monterey tended the pin at the 15th hole during the final three rounds of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament Feb. 10-12. The 15th green's pin was adorned with the U.S. flag for the occasion and was a prominent feature during the tournament's live television broadcast.
The pin detail, consisting of service members from the DLIFLC Joint Service Color Guard and Monterey Coast Guardsmen, publicly represented a much larger group of military volunteers involved in the tournament. In all, more than 250 military members provided volunteer assistance over a 20-day span to the golf tournament, whose focus is to raise money for charities and depends on volunteers to run effectively.
"It's nice just being out there with all the services together and meeting some golfers and celebrities," explained Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Fogarty. "It's great getting to show ourselves to the public and reach out to the community and let them know we are here and doing our part."
Fogarty was one of nearly a dozen service members on the detail standing by at Pebble Beach's 15th hole, waiting to take possession of the pin and render honors to the American flag attached to it during tournament play on Feb. 11.
Because of the military presence along the hole and the nearby military-appreciation hospitality tent, the hole earned the nickname "the military hole" from television broadcasters.
Bob Sparks, who has coordinated the military-appreciation tent for the last five years, explained the origins of the military-pin detail.
"We saw the golf tournament at Torrey Pines with service members working the pin," said Sparks. "So we approached tournament director Steve Worthy and Monterey Peninsula Foundation CEO Ollie Nutt and said we need to do this. They said 'fine'."
The final round of the tournament, held Feb. 12, featured two of golf's most well-known players, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, being paired together and contesting for the lead. This resulted in a 96 percent increase in television viewership from last year, for a viewing audience CBS estimated at just under 6 million people.
So how did this pressure affect the service members who were front and center when the cameras rolled through?
"I was a little nervous, but nothing I couldn't handle," said Lance Cpl. Donovan Clancy, who was on the pin when Woods arrived at hole-15 on Saturday. "I love being able to serve my country and represent the Marine Corps, it's a great experience."
He noted that he appreciated seeing Tony Romo "hit an amazing shot" and Woods make a 20-foot putt.
"I'm just glad I got the opportunity to come out here," Clancy added. "I think it helps remind everyone that we are people just like everyone else, we just [have] a different job to do. Hopefully it makes them feel good about themselves and their country. This experience was definitely something the Marine Corps gave me and I am grateful."