Week of events honoring area military includes Military Job Fair on Saturday, Operation Shower on Sunday of advance week; Big & Rich on Tuesday; complimentary admission, hospitality
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Continuing a PGA TOUR tradition of honoring men and women in uniform, THE PLAYERS Championship today unveiled a full slate of military appreciation activities and programs for the 2015 event, including a special performance by American country music duo Big & Rich on Tuesday, May 5, during Military Appreciation Day. Held on Wednesday of tournament week in the past, Military Appreciation Day has moved to Tuesday this year when the tournament returns to THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, May 5-11.
Big & Rich will cap off the Military Appreciation Day program on the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse Lawn, which will include pageantry by military personnel, a flyover, and a National Anthem performance by rising country artist Cali Rodi. Speakers at the Military Appreciation ceremony will be Sergeant Major Bryan Battaglia, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem; Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown; and a TOUR player TBD.
Country superstars Big & Rich, comprised of Kenny Alphin and John Rich, are acclaimed songwriters, producers, vocalists, and instrumentalists. The trailblazing duo’s first studio album, Horse of a Different Color, was released in 2004. It produced four straight hit singles, including the iconic “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy),” which was used by ESPN as the theme music for its World Series of Poker programming. Comin’ to Your City, launched in November 2005, added another Top 20 single, the Vietnam War-inspired “8th of November,” and two more Top 40 hits, including “Comin’ to Your City,” which ESPN has used as the opening theme for its College GameDay program for nearly a decade. Big & Rich’s 2007 album, Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace, produced Big Kenny and John Rich’s first Number One single, “Lost in This Moment.” Their fourth album, Hillbilly Jedi, generated the Top 20 hit, “That’s Why I Pray.”
In 2011, John Rich won NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice, earning more than $1 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He and Big Kenny recently made a guest appearance on ABC’s The Bachelor, where they helped the show’s female contestants write songs expressing their feelings for Bachelor Chris Soules.
The multi-platinum selling duo is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Their fifth studio album, Gravity, was released on Big & Rich Records in November 2014. The first single, “Look At You,” broke the Top 10 on the country radio charts last November. Big & Rich’s current single, “Run Away With You,” is now climbing its way up the charts.
“THE PLAYERS is more than a golf tournament and a showcase of elite golf and a world-class facility,” said THE PLAYERS 2015 Volunteer Chairman Brian Franco. “THE PLAYERS week is filled with activities that highlight the good side of sports, most notably, a commitment to honoring the men and women who serve in the U.S. Military. We’re thrilled to have Big & Rich join us for what promises to be an amazing start to tournament week.”
In addition to the celebrating them during Military Appreciation Day, THE PLAYERS provides all career military (active duty, Reserve, military retirees and dependents) with complimentary admission to the tournament all week and discounted admission for veterans (to obtain vouchers, go to PGATOUR.COM/theplayers and click on the Tickets & Parking link). Throughout tournament week, all active duty and Reserve military members, military retirees, and their dependents will have access to the Birdies for the Brave Patriots’ Outpost, a hospitality tent reserved exclusively for the military which offers complimentary food, beverages and activities. Located near the tee at No. 16, the Patriots’ Outpost is financially supported by THE PLAYERS and Jacksonville-area companies and individuals. In 2014, THE PLAYERS issued more than 21,000 complimentary military tickets and more than 14,000 military members and their families were hosted in the Patriots’ Outpost.
Prior to tournament week, THE PLAYERS will welcome active duty, Reserve, retired military, veterans, and military spouses to TPC Sawgrass on Saturday, May 2, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., to participate in its fourth-annual Military Job Fair, in partnership with the Jacksonville Military Veterans Coalition. The Military Job Fair is free and open to military personnel, veterans and military spouses who are seeking employment. There will be approximately 40 companies on hand, all with open hiring opportunities. Free career counseling and resume writing assistance will be provided, as well as, information on local educational institutions with veterans’ programs. THE PLAYERS Military Veterans Job Fairs have seen attendance of more than 500 military job seekers and 40 companies participating.
On Sunday, May 3, THE PLAYERS and Birdies for the Brave® will again partner with Operation Shower to host a group baby shower for 40 military moms-to-be whose husbands are deployed members of the U.S. Navy. The event, scheduled 12-2 p.m. in the Patriots’ Outpost and hosted by Tabitha Furyk, will feature Operation Shower’s signature Shower-In-A-Box, including gifts of high-quality products for the moms and babies that will be provided by sponsors and donors. This is the 34th shower hosted by the PGA TOUR through its Birdies for the Brave military outreach initiatives and Operation Shower, which has honored more than 2,000 military moms-to-be.
About THE PLAYERS Championship
THE PLAYERS Championship annually combines the best field in golf with the world-class venue that is THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. PwC is the exclusive Proud Partner of THE PLAYERS. Proceeds from THE PLAYERS benefit Northeast Florida charities and have totaled nearly $67.5 million since the event moved to Ponte Vedra Beach in 1977, including a record $7.5 million donation in 2014. In April 2011, THE PLAYERS announced a new charitable focus, committing to generate $50 million for youth-related charities over the next 10 years. For more on THE PLAYERS and the surrounding area, visit
PGATOUR.COM/theplayers or floridashistoriccoast.com.
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Laura Neal, PGA TOUR | email@example.com
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – As the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War approaches, the RBC Heritage helped remind Americans about the continued need to support those returning home from combat with serious injuries by honoring two local wounded warriors this week as part of its support for Birdies for the Brave. On Monday at Harbor Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, SC, Purple Heart recipients Charlie Pannell from Anderson, SC, and Anthony Smith from Savannah, GA, had the opportunity to participate in Birdies for the Brave’s Callaway Warrior Club Fitting Program – where they were fitted with their own custom set of Callaway Golf clubs, took a tour of the Callaway truck where clubs are fitted for TOUR players on-site, and participated in a mini lesson on the practice facility.
One of more than 15 fittings scheduled to take place during TOUR tournaments in 2015 thanks to the generosity of Callaway Golf, the event was designed to aid in the rehabilitation process while expressing gratitude for the service and sacrifice of these two American heroes – both of whom sustained serious injuries during tours of duty in Iraq.
Pannell was injured in 2008 while leading a patrol as commander of a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle. His was the last vehicle traveling through the busy market town of Mosul when three young boys ran into the street and threw armor-piercing grenades at the vehicle. Each grenade exploded upon impact and ripped through the vehicle, instantly injuring his entire squad. Pannell’s lower extremities were destroyed. His squad was rushed to a hospital on base and all four survived but with severed limbs. Pannell was awarded a Purple Heart for his injuries and a Bronze Star for selflessly providing first aid to his squad before applying it to himself. After spending a year in recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center working to salvage his leg, an infection required the leg to be amputated. Pannell began playing golf after the amputation as therapy and receives lessons each month.
Smith sustained his injuries in 2004 during his deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He and his platoon were performing a security convoy operation in Balad, Iraq, when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device (IED). The blast threw Smith and the vehicle into a nearby ditch. He and his squad were then airlifted to a hospital on base. Following his recovery, Smith returned to his platoon and completed the remainder of his deployment. He returned to Iraq in 2009 for a second deployment and currently serves the United States Army as a Brigade Unmanned Aerial Systems Officer in Savannah, Georgia. Smith was awarded a Purple Heart for his injuries during his first deployment along with two Army Commendation medals and three Army Achievement medals.
“Golf is an extraordinary way for wounded service members to heal from the physical and psychological wounds of war, as well as a great coping mechanism as they reintegrate into civilian life,” says Callaway Golf Company Vice President of Sports Marketing Nick Raffaele. “We are honored to work in partnership with the PGA TOUR and Birdies for the Brave to express our sincere gratitude and give something back to these courageous American heroes, who have sacrificed so much to help keep America safe and free.”
Both heroes were extremely appreciative for the opportunity, as well as the support provided by the RBC Heritage and the local community.
“It’s pretty neat that the community supports wounded warriors. Every soldier who deploys comes back with some type of injury, whether they are physical or invisible scars. Each one bears a burden that only those on the front lines may know. For Callaway and Birdies for the Brave to rally behind us, provide rehabilitation opportunities, and just say thank you, is really incredible,” said Smith.
The Callaway Warrior Club Fitting program is just one of many military outreach initiatives that are part of Birdies for the Brave, a military outreach initiative dedicated to honoring and showing appreciation to the courageous members of our U.S. Armed Forces and their families. Named in 2012 by the White House one of the top 20 charities that support military families, Birdies for the Brave was created in 2006 by PGA TOUR player Phil Mickelson and his wife, Amy, to support combat-wounded veterans. The PGA TOUR subsequently adopted Birdies for the Brave, and expanded it to include a wide variety of military outreach and appreciation efforts during PGA TOUR tournaments, as well as fundraising events conducted at the TOUR’s TPC Network of clubs – an effort that has raised more than $13 million for 11 military homefront groups that are supported by TOUR players. To learn more or make a donation, visit www.birdiesforthebrave.org or follow them on Facebook.