The event begins with a free clinic on the driving range. COPGA Members spend 1-2 hours on the practice
tee working with the troops on their golf swings and talking with them about the state of their golf games. A few of the troops play with prosthetic limbs, making the clinic challenging yet rewarding for the golf professional that has the opportunity to work with one of our Wounded Warriors. Lunch runs concurrently with the Clinic so the professionals and their teammates have an opportunity to get to know each other better prior to the tournament proper.
The scramble began at 1:30pm. The excitement of all participants is clearly evident as hoots and hollers can be heard all over the course when balls go in the air. My team left our first tee with fist bumps and high fives as we roasted a drive in the middle of the fairway. Then we made a bogey. Suddenly the fun and excitement was replaced by groans and grinding. My teammates started pressing early…they made certain to let me know periodically throughout the day that they’ve won quite a few of the base sponsored scrambles and they were in it to win it! I promised to try to not let them down. We went par-birdie on the next 2 holes to right the ship, and the atmosphere of fun returned to the group. Then the clouds rolled in.
The radar showed that the storm had a good chance of missing us, so we kept our noses to the ground and attacked the golf course with vigor. The wind picked up and the temperature started to plummet. Try as we might to stay focused on the task at hand; it was tough to ignore the ever darkening sky and the ever increasing wind. While waiting on the 9th tee we heard the first bang on the roof of the cart. The hail grew increasingly in size…from peas and pebbles to golf balls. We ran for cover in the nearest shelter and waited out the storm. The sirens to stop play caused a few of the troops to tell stories of similar sirens they’d heard while deployed at various posts around the world. I was touched by the ease with which these soldiers talked freely about the trials and tribulations they faced while protecting me and my freedoms…and they did it with a smile on their faces. It made me even more appreciative of our military and the things they do for our country.
An hour or so passed, the storm finally moved on, and the sun began to peek out of the clouds. We resumed play with a birdie and continued our pursuit of the prize. We hit the ball well and we gave our team a chance to really make a move; unfortunately the putts wouldn’t fall and we settled for quite a few pars. Then, the clock struck 5:00 and the moment I’d been anticipating all day occurred. This is the second time I’d played in the event, so I was no longer clueless about the ritual of Retreat. For those not familiar, this is the time of day when the members of our military pay tribute to the flag they spend their days defending. Cars pull over and the occupants dismount and face the flag. All play on the golf course stopped and we each faced the direction of the flag (at least I faced in the same direction as my playing partners) and we waited as the bugle played through the base sound system and the flag was lowered, folded, and put away for another day.
The 2nd hole was our last of the day and we fittingly finished with an eagle to card a 64. While we didn’t win any prizes that day, the look on the faces of my teammates told me that they really appreciated me taking time to spend the day with them. What they didn’t know, or at least I felt I couldn’t express enough, was my appreciation of them and all they do for me and our country. Many of my relatives have served in the military and this tournament will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s fitting that the event occurred between National Golf Day on Capitol Hill and Memorial Day. I’m looking forward to the event next year and the years to come.