Golfers pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice

Memorial Day Weekend has played through, but the commemoratives are as fresh as dew on this mornings's Bermuda.

Golfers can't help but think about the Folds of Honor Foundation and what it has done for fallen soldiers and their families since Dan Rooney began the organization after his fateful flight to Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2007.

Maj. Rooney flew on United Flight 664 one significant evening with the remains of a fallen soldier and that soldier's twin brother who was escorting the casket as it made the 7000-mile trip home. Rooney didn't know either, but he watched as the "American Flag-draped coffin" was brought to the family on the tarmac. The vision of the fallen soldier's 4-year-old son must have penetrated his soul.

Two golf tournaments support the Folds of Honor Foundation, The Patriot Invitational every Memorial Day weekend and the Patriot All-American in December. Players from the PGA Tour, PGA Tour Champions and LPGA as well as celebrities across the nation were invited to the Black-Tie Gala and the 3-person scramble. David Feherty and Rickie Fowler make it an annual stop.

Collegiate golfers also help. Three of my former players have competed in the Patriot All-American that began five years ago at the Wigwam Resort in Phoenix. Jared Smith, Hayes Weathersby and Phillip Hickam agreed that the experience will never be forgotten. Each carried a PING bag with a fallen soldier's name embroidered on its side, and now each bag has a special place in the team's locker room.

Ribs painted with patriotic sauces and red-white-and-blue hot dogs might have been digested a few days ago, but the memories of fallen soldiers are palatable 365 days a year. They will not be forgotten as long as Dan Rooney and people who support worthy causes care for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

At the NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship in Eugene, Ore., I had the privilege of announcing players and the soldiers they were honoring on Memorial Day. The collegiate golfers were so respectful. A few had to write down the names. Signs positioned around tees and greens gave fans and golfers a glimpse of the fallen warriors and their families left behind. We will never forget.

Tommy Snell, golf coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, writes a column for the Sun Herald.