PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- With an extraordinary showcase of pageantry and moving patriotic displays of all things red, white and blue, the 5th annual Patriot Golf Day Weekend at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie was a stunning show, with nearly 1,000 total participants over Labor Day Weekend. Patriot Golf Day events at more than 4,400 registered PGA facilities nationwide benefit the Folds of Honor Foundation, which provides scholarships to families of military veterans disabled or killed in action, and is supported by The PGA of America and USGA.
This year's event at PGA Village further showcased the charitable goodwill of golf, as The PGA of America's Chief Executive Officer Joe Steranka, and Maj. Ed Pulido — who received a Purple Heart after losing his leg to a roadside explosive while serving in Iraq — led the festivities as Grand Marshals. Following the annual parade down PGA Golf Club's Perfect Drive, United States Marine Corps members appeared on a hill alongside the driving range to raise the American Flag. Meanwhile, 16-year old Megan Elbin, granddaughter of PGA Past President Max Elbin, sang the National Anthem, setting the tone for an opening ceremony that featured everything from riveting speeches to a red-tailed hawk release into PGA Golf Club's Audubon International Signature Sanctuary to the event's traditional "21 Golf Ball Salute."
"Patriot Golf Day is a celebration of what has taken place over decades of the history of The PGA of America," said Steranka, who traced The PGA's historic connection to the military back to World War I, when PGA members raised funds to provide an ambulance to support the troops. "This year, we will cross over $10 million raised for the Folds of Honor Foundation through Patriot Golf Day, which has provided more than 2,000 scholarships for the families of military veterans, and The PGA of America is delighted to take part."
"I am so incredibly proud of what The PGA of America and PGA Village have accomplished to bring awareness and honor to the brave men and women who have served so honorably in our United States Military," said Bob Baldassari, PGA senior director for player development, and emcee of Patriot Golf Day festivities at PGA Village since the launch of the charity event in 2007. "For those who perished in the fight to protect our freedoms and gave the ultimate sacrifice, this is why we work so hard each year to make Patriot Golf Day such a great success."
Maj. Pulido gave an inspiring speech of what the day means to our nation's heroes. "How great it is to stand in front of you so honored and humbled," said Pulido. "PGA Professional Maj. Dan Rooney, my leader and friend — and the Founder of Patriot Golf Day — taught me the importance of honoring men and women in uniform, past, present and future, and we are so humbled by the incredible support of the 27,000 men and women of The PGA of America and the role they play in providing for the families of wounded and killed military veterans."
Each year, Patriot Golf Day offers a new twist, and this year featured the first-ever Patriot Golf Day charity concert, which PGA Village hosted on Friday night at nearby Digital Domain Park, the spring training home of the New York Mets. The headline act was national recording artist Ricochet, which had a No. 1 hit in the 1990s with "Daddy's Money" and featured Dwayne Dupuy — a PGA Professional for Dick's Sporting Goods in Nashville — on keyboards, vocals, drums and trumpet. "My two passions are music and golf," explains Dupuy, who performs in approximately 60 shows a year nationwide. "As I got older in the music industry, I wanted to try a new option and career, and I thought about how awesome it would be to become a PGA Professional. And to play a Patriot Golf Day concert right down the street from where I take my checkpoints [a multi-year series of benchmark requirements for PGA membership that are administered at the nearby PGA Education Center], I couldn't be more proud."
The concert also featured performances by local band Boss Groove and the Avenue D Choir. Meanwhile, a special flyover by a WWII-era squadron plane kicked off the annual opening ceremonies, which featured speeches by Steranka, Maj. Pulido, Rep. Tom Rooney and State Rep. Gayle Harrell. "It is important that we remember everyone that keeps up safe and free," said Rep. Rooney, who serves on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
On Saturday, the traditional John Shimkonis Memorial Medal Golf Tournament at PGA Golf Club was held in honor of the first PGA Professional to sacrifice his life while serving his country, hosted a field of more than 100 participants. Other weekend events included: Charitable Flag Day and Point Quota golf tournaments; 10-minute golf lessons in exchange for donations to the Folds of Honor Foundation at the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance; a blood drive on The Big Red Bus; and family golf events.
Meanwhile, back at Digital Domain Park, the St. Lucie Mets auctioned off red, white and blue Patriot Golf Day jerseys that featured insignias from The PGA, Patriot Golf Day and the Florida Air National Guard. The uniforms were worn by members of Ricochet and by St. Lucie Mets players during a doubleheader. The jerseys were then autographed and auctioned off to fans, raising additional funds for the cause. An impressive fireworks display capped off the evening.
"What a great day to be American!" declared Pulido.
About PGA Village
The Ryder, Wanamaker and Dye Courses form a trio of world-class public courses at the PGA Golf Club, at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Named by Golf Digest as one of the "75 Best Golf Resorts in North America," PGA Village also features the award-winning, 35-acre PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance and the PGA Museum of Golf. The PGA Golf Club exists to be one of the premier daily fee facilities in America, and to serve as a home club for our 27,000 PGA Professionals. For more information, please visit pgavillage.com.
About The PGA of America
Since 1916, The PGA of America's mission has been twofold: to establish and elevate the standards of the profession and to grow interest and participation in the game of golf.
By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, the Association enables PGA Professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in the multi-billion dollar golf industry.
By creating and delivering dramatic world-class championships and exciting and enjoyable golf promotions that are viewed as the best of their class in the golf industry, The PGA of America elevates the public's interest in the game, the desire to play more golf, and ensures accessibility to the game for everyone, everywhere. The PGA of America brand represents the very best in golf.
About Patriot Golf Day
The Folds of Honor Foundation's primary fundraiser is Patriot Golf Day, the largest grassroots golf platform in the country. With the support of The PGA of America and USGA, Patriot Golf Day has generated more than $8.6 million from more than 4,200 golf courses in just four years.
Maj. Dan Rooney, founder of Folds of Honor, started Patriot Golf Day in 2007, by asking golfers to add $1 to their greens fees in support of the Folds of Honor Foundation. Since then, the concept has grown to include a number of supporters and fundraising efforts. In 2011, The PGA and USGA will continue to support the cause by encouraging their collective membership to participate and promote participation on a national scale through the airing of public service announcements during the PGA Championship and U.S. Open.
Patriot Golf Day 2011 was held over Labor Day weekend, September 2-5. If you are interested in joining our mission to empower the lives of these deserving military families with educational opportunities, please contact the Folds of Honor Foundation or sign up to participate at patriotgolfday.com.