"My family and I have been so blessed with the opportunities afforded to us in this country. We love this country. It has meant so much to us. So we feel privileged to be able to give back in any way that we can, no matter how small that contribution might be."
Those words could have come from any number of great Americans, men and women who consistently sacrifice to make a positive impact on our national landscape.
But instead they came from a resident alien, a man with a Green Card and a clipped accent: South African Masters champion Trevor Immelman who, like many immigrants, articulates his love for America better than a lot of people whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower.
The venue for my conversation with Trevor was Country Club of Columbus in Georgia, close enough to Fort Benning to hear the muffled echoes of artillery rounds from the 69th Armor Regiment. Trevor was in town with his father, Johan, his mother, June, his brother, Mark, and his sister-in-law, Tracy, to promote Golf 9-12, a day of unity and remembrance in a post 9-11 world.
"Golf 9-12 was established to bring everyone together, and to use golf as a vehicle to promote that spirit of unity that we all felt the day after 9-11," Trevor told me. "My parents first moved here in 2000. My children were born here and are American citizens. So this country has been very, very good to me and to my family."
Johan Immelman launched Golf 9-12 two years ago. The original idea was to create a day of golf that would raise awareness nationally while raising funds for first responders locally.
"By focusing on first responders, and by partnering with local colleges and universities to seed scholarships for children of first responders, we feel as though Golf 9-12 gives us all a sense of worldwide unity while supporting those who are closest to a crisis when it occurs," Johan told me. "With all the many wonderful and successful charities that help our military men and women, we felt that too many first responders were being overlooked. They are the people who are running into the flames, into the danger, as we are running out. And they are the ones you call when you need help."
Events were held all across the country. The Immelmans couldn’t be at all of them. They chose Columbus because Mark is an instructor there as well as being the men’s golf coach at Columbus State University.
And the irony of their Cape Town roots was lost on no one.
"I feel more than a little conflicted that the three men who put this entire thing together are South African," said Brent Reid, one of the 96 players in Columbus for the event. "It’s wonderful what they are doing, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just kind of a sad commentary that they’re the ones carrying the mantle while those of us who were born here sort of stand idly by."
Not everyone born in the USA is standing by. Maj. Dan Rooney's Folds of Honor foundation has raised millions for the families of fallen servicemen. Davis Love III and his wife Robin do wonderful work through their foundation, and Butch Harmon supports scores of wounded veterans through Harmon's Heroes.
But as the color guard raised the stars and stripes, no American sang our anthem any louder than the Immelmans. And no one gives more of their time and talents than those born in other nations who understand how truly blessed we are.
"We hope that this grows from the grass roots," Johan said. "We all know how we felt on 9-12, the unity and the sense of giving that we all experienced. Hopefully we can regain that same spirit again."
Ours is a nation of immigrants, founded on ideals and not bloodlines. Families from around the world – families like the Immelmans - still come here because of those ideals.
Of all the uniquely American attributes, it is wonderful to see that one continue.
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