It was the greatest honor of my life to serve six years in the United States Marine Corps. Amidst the trials and tribulations associated with daily military challenges, several years ago I found a week-long escape in an annual volunteer opportunity. It was at this event where I would begin to forge lifelong friendships and unforgettable experiences.
In 2012, as a young man and a junior Marine, while stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico, a friend forwarded me an email in which he thought I might be interested. A retired Army Colonel was reaching out to military installations in the D.C. region recruiting individuals interested in participating in the military caddie program at the Quicken Loans National Pro-Am.
Without hesitation I eagerly submitted my name for consideration. Golf is my greatest passion in life, and any opportunity to witness the game's greats performing up close and personal was a dream I couldn't pass up. Rarely does reality surpass our expectations, but in this case, it did.
At this point in my life, I had never been to a PGA TOUR event. I remember driving to the Pro-Am nervous and excited, not knowing what to expect. A few hours later I was walking down 18 fairway carrying a golf bag. To my left, PGA TOUR professional Hunter Mahan. To my right, Sean Foley, who at the time was Tiger Woods' swing coach. My genuine interest in their lives and the PGA TOUR was equally matched by the curiosity and questioning they had for me regarding the military.
Fast forward several days later, to the final-round play Sunday afternoon, where I had the privilege of announcing on 18 green. After the player hits his approach shot into the green, I walk out, in my Dress Blue "Deltas," and asked the fans to thank the PGA TOUR pro for participating in the Quicken Loans National. Hunter was in the last few groups, as he was playing well that weekend. When his group was walking off the green, his caddie made his way to where I was standing. He removed his caddie bib, handed it to Hunter, Hunter signed it and gave it to me.
Remember, this is four competitive rounds after I had caddied for him for only two holes earlier in the week. The acknowledgement, the gesture and remembering who I was, after competing in a weeklong professional tournament, blew me away. This is the type of experience the PGA TOUR and the Tiger Woods Foundation offers to our nation's service men and women every year.
Saturday, June 30, 2012, was possibly the oddest day in golf tournament history. With debris from D.C.'s worst storm in history damaging the golf course overnight, the tournament committee was forced to close the course to the public. However, as far as military starters were concerned, the show must go on. I spent the morning professionally announcing group after group of tee times, to almost no one. Sarcastically, the caddies would fake crowd screams in the background just to get a rise out of the players.
All week, I was stressfully worried about announcing Tiger's group in front of thousands of fans. Luckily, for probably the first time in his playing career, he garnered the attention of roughly thirty people. His playing partner, Cameron Tringale, who I caddied for days earlier, walked over to me and said, "Now Tiger gets to see what it's like to play in front of my usual crowd."
Last year, the 2015 Quicken Loans National at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club was my fourth and final tournament as a military volunteer. Just when I thought I had experienced all this opportunity had to offer, I was once again amazed. In a four-hour period, I participated in the opening ceremony handing a golf ball to Tiger to tee off with, caddied for two professional golfers, then finished up with a luncheon sharing a table with Tiger. Truly a day I'll never forget.
I've been blessed with the opportunity of volunteering with the Tiger Woods Foundation at the Quicken Loans National golf tournament for the past four years. The weeklong event is by far my favorite week of the year. That is why, after my enlistment ended, I was determined to intern with the Tiger Woods Foundation this summer, so I could turn one amazing week into one unforgettable summer. My role with the foundation is in military services, a position I don't take lightly. I strive to provide lifelong memories for our military members as were provided over the years to me.