Nothing can stop these guys.
Not boot camp. Not war. Not being shot at. Not even the rain that caused a half-hour delay.
"That's a soldier's story," said Donny Alston, an Army veteran who lost his left leg below the knee in a training mission. "Nothing's going to keep these guys off the course."
And it didn't.
During the Inaugural Military Muster at Fox Hollow Golf Club in Trinity on Monday, current and former members of the four branches of the United States military — Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard — plus the National Guard, teed up for charity. They played in a light rain, through wind, and then, they played against each other. As added incentive, the golfers teamed up by branch against the other branches. And the grand prize for the branch that had the lowest score?
"Those are a big deal," said Alston, also the event's organizer. "You can ride your buddy for a whole year with those. Guys love that. Bragging rights can be a big part of the whole camaraderie thing with these guys."
Alston will admit he stole the idea. The golfer, who plays with an artificial leg (decked out with the Titleist logo to boot), was invited to play a similar event hosted annually by Fox Hollow's sister course, the Fox Hopyard Golf Club in Connecticut.
A light bulb went off and Alston knew he had to get the event back home. After all, proceeds would, and did, benefit Disabled American Veterans Chapter 78, which is the New Port Richey chapter of the organization, whose purpose is to build better lives for disabled veterans and their families. It also benefited Operation Homefront, which provides emergency assistant and morale to troops and their families and then wounded soldiers once they return.
"(Donny's) done a very, very good job," Operation Homefront representative Jeff Gareau said. "You can tell this is the type of thing that will just get bigger and bigger year after year. It's amazing to see these many military people out here just to golf."
Alston said about 90 percent of the golfers in attendance were veterans, and they were of all ages and of different conflicts. Each branch had a solid turnout, with everyone wearing an article of clothing representing a branch.
Just as Roger Smith, a Navy vet, did. The New Port Richey resident did three tours in Vietnam and was ready to take on his two of foursome partners, who were from the National Guard.
"I've never been in a tournament where its against the other guys (in the other branches)," Smith, 66, said. "I think it's great though. I don't know (which branch) has the biggest turnout, but even still, its about getting the bragging rights.
"But being for charity really cinches it."
Obviously each golfer is rooting for his branch.
"Someone will probably get bragging rights — of course I hope it's the Marines," said Darrell Thomas, an 81-year-old former Marine who enlisted at the end of World War II. "This is the first tourney like this I've been in and I know I'm going to enjoy it very much.
"Everybody pretty much feels the same — we all share a bond. We're all part of a huge fraternity that usually is all friends. That's what makes this unique: to have us all together to play golf."
Alston was pleased with what he saw Monday. Hoards of golfers, all former military, laughing it up, bumping elbow, sharing stories. Then they trudged out to the links.
The opening ceremony, which included a bagpipe player and a large flag presentation from Mitchell High's ROTC, was also a big hit. And to top it off, the Coast Guard did a flyby with one of its helicopters.
Talk about having to live up a hype each year.
"Hopefully we can keep it up every year now," Alston said with a laugh. "That's quite a standard we have now. This is going to be annual event and we're going to do this every year because it has just been too much fun.
"That's what makes all the work worthwhile."
Community Sports Editor Mike Camunas can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 544-1771.