With flags waving from each golf cart and tee box, Old Glory and the Texas flag greeted each soldier and golfer on a beautiful East Texas day at The Cascades Golf & Country Club.
Some 25 Wounded Warriors teed off at the 10th Annual Texas Wounded Warrior Pro-Am on Monday.
Before they hit the links, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited as a crowd of some 200 encircled the driving range. Also, a moment of silence was held for the victims of the Las Vegas shootings.
Next, the Tyler Police Department honor guard presented the colors with a trumpet solo of the national anthem by Tyler policeman John Weaver. The colors were presented by Brandon Crawley, Luis Aparicio, Mark Lee and Lukas Neubauer.
“It is always an honor to play (“The Star-Spangled Banner”),” Weaver said.
Two servicemen - Staff Sgt. Paul Castillo and Sgt. Michael McEuen - brought a military Humvee for display. The two are stationed in Tyler at the 141st Quartermaster Company.
“With around 200 wounded warriors in East Texas we continue to try and locate them and offer our services when needed,” said retired Champions PGA Tour professional Dick Goetz, who along with Ron Nash of Dallas, a retired Navy Lt. Commander, started the Texas Wounded Warrior Foundation in 2007.
Goetz said since 2007, “donations have passed the $3.5 million mark and the number of wounded warriors helped is near 400.”
“It’s been a wonderful opportunity to see something grow that has meaning and purpose and provides a service to so many brave Americans,” Goetz said.
The weekend served as a respite for the Wounded Warriors. It began on Friday with the Warriors being greeted by flag waving students at All Saints Episcopal School, followed by a nine-hole scramble at The Cascades and a party at Rio Neches Ranch.
On Saturday, a casino party was held at KE Bushman’s in Bullard and on Sunday, the Warriors were given massages by the Stone School of Massage followed by a round of golf at Eagle’s Bluff Country Club in Bullard.
Before Monday’s pro-am, PGA pros gave the Warriors instructions.
Former PGA and Champions Tour golfer Homero Blancas, known as Mr. 55 after carding that score in 1962, was on hand to play with the Wounded Warriors as well as former PGA and Champions Tour golfer Jacky Cupit, who finished runner-up with Arnold Palmer in the 1962 U.S. Open in a playoff to winner Julius Boros.
Both Blancas and Cupit were members of the University of Houston golf team. Blancas shot his 55 at a collegiate tournament in Longview. It is still stands as the lowest round in the history of competitive golf.
Following the 18-holes of golf, an awards ceremony was held.
Actor Burton Gilliam, who played Lyle in the 1974 classic movie “Blazing Saddles,” was on hand. After playing out the first scene from the movie, he auctioned off a director Mel Brooks’ autographed DVD of the movie.
Long-drive champion Daniel Lambert bid $700 for the DVD. Lambert was around all weekend and held a putt-off with Warriors. Whoever beat him had a chance to win a putter. In the drawing, Wounded Warrior Bryan Anderson won the putter.
The Texas Warrior Golf Association of D/FW presented a signed pin flag and a basket of goodies to Goetz and Nash.
In a scorecard playoff, the team of Clayton Friend (Hollytree Country Club pro), George McMann, Nolen Howard, Reggie Howell and T.J. DiPlacido won first with a score of 53.
Taking second was the squad of pro Stetson McMillan, Bob Burnett, Tony Johnson, Dr. Jim Durrett and Robert Hunter with a 53.
Placing third with a 54 was the team of pro Brent Blackburn, Matt Kahle, Richard Bond, Frank Dooley and Jeremy Balmonte.
Goetz said the main mission of the Texas Wounded Warrior Foundation is enabling the Warriors to assimilate back to daily life upon their return from combat.
“We seek to provide Wounded Veterans injured from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan with funding to defray the basic costs of living incurred, as a result of the short and long-term care of those injuries,” he said.
He added they support the Warriors hosting golf events, golf schools, weekend retreats, hunting and fishing.
Along with the pro-am in Tyler, another pro-am is held the first Monday in November at Escondido Golf and Lake Club in Horseshow Bay.
Earlier in the day, a restored vintage motor bike donated by Lyle Mirsky of CHP Motor Sports in Whitehouse, was given away in a raffle drawing.
Among the many volunteers in sponsors, Goetz noted “if it had not been for people like the late Pierre de Wet and the folks at Kiepersol, along with Harry and Dawn Leatherwood, we probably would have never gotten things off the ground. They were on board from the beginning.
“Then Monte and Pam Hall, (Hall Buick GMC) began their support shortly after the first two years. Along with Cavender’s, Don’s TV, Lance Fenton, JW Rogers (provided jet transportation for the Warriors) and the golf courses at Willow Brook, Cascades and Eagle’s Bluff, we would have never succeeded in raising the funds needed to continue. There have been many more individuals who have brought support and help and it would be hard to name them all.
“Gene Roberson and Kenny Conner started the ‘Cruzers Car and Truck Show’ four years ago and have raised over $20,000 with all of the proceeds going to the Texas Wounded Warriors Foundation.”
To volunteer or donate to the cause, go to txwoundedwarriors.com.