THE PLAYERS Championship teamed up with Birdies for the Brave this month to make a historic impact on our military – hosting a record number of military guests during a series of military outreach and appreciation activities designed to let these courageous American heroes and their families know how much their service and sacrifice are appreciated. Highlighting the activities, THE PLAYERS continued its long-standing tradition of providing complimentary admission for military members and their dependents, and discounted tickets for veterans.
On Saturday, May 5, THE PLAYERS teamed up with the Jacksonville Military Veterans Coalition to host a Military Veterans’ Job Fair Presented by United Rentals in the Birdies for the Brave Patriots’ Outpost presented by United Rentals. More than 400 active duty and Reserve military members, military retirees, non-retired veterans and military spouses attended this fifth annual event, where more than 50 companies were on hand to offer hiring opportunities, provide free career counseling and resume writing assistance, and provide information on local educational institutions with programs for veterans.
The following day, THE PLAYERS teamed up with United Rentals, the Jim & Tabitha Furyk Foundation, Chicco and Birdies for the Brave to host a “Main Street USA”-themed group baby shower for 37 military moms-to-be from the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force. Tabitha Furyk, wife of PGA TOUR player Jim Furyk and co-founder of the Jim & Tabitha Furyk Foundation, served as guest host of the shower, which featured surprise homecomings for two deployed service members whose wives attended the shower. The event also featured lunch; a variety of raffle and prize giveaways; and the highlight of the event, the distribution of Operation Shower’s signature Showers In A Box. This was the 55th military baby shower to be hosted by the PGA TOUR in collaboration with Operation Shower, one of 11 military homefront charities that are supported by Birdies for the Brave.
On Tuesday, THE PLAYERS kicked off Military Appreciation Day by hosting a ceremony commemorating the opening of the Birdies for the Brave Patriots’ Outpost, featuring a variety of special presentations. Andy Pazder, chief tournament/competitions officer for the PGA TOUR, served as emcee for the ceremony, which included a military retirement ceremony for SGT First Class Kenneth Ford, husband of PGA TOUR employee Kelly Ford; a $50K donation to the Firehouse Public Safety Foundation; Dell laptops distributed to 12 K9s For Warriors graduates; and acknowledgement of graduating seniors in the JROTC from nearby Nease High School. Nease High School also honored its leader, Captain Scott LaRochelle, husband of PGA TOUR employee Carole LaRochelle. PGA TOUR player Scott Stallings and THE PLAYERS Executive Director Jared Rice also participated in the ceremony. In all, 750 guests attended the ceremony in the 10,000 square-foot Outpost.
Throughout tournament week, the Patriots’ Outpost welcomed a record 22,000 military guests – who enjoyed complimentary food and beverages compliments of generous donors including Chick-fil-A, Firehouse Subs, Arby’s and Hardee’s. On Sunday, Arby’s President Rob Lynch surprised guests by personally serving sandwiches in the Outpost.
On Tuesday evening, Military Appreciation Day culminated with a spectacular evening ceremony emcee’d by NBC Sports’ Dan Hicks and attended by more than 30,000 fans. The event featured a flyover by the 125th Fighter Wing from the Air National Guard; remarks by RDML Bette Bolivar, commander of Navy Region Southeast; and remarks by Jim Furyk. The ceremony was highlighted by a concert by country music artist Luke Combs.
On Wednesday, Birdies for the Brave teamed up with Optum to surprise Petty Officer Torres at his home and invite him to enjoy a VIP club fitting experience at the Performance Center at THE PLAYERS during the tournament. The fitting took place on Saturday, where Petty Officer Torres was fitted for his own set of custom golf clubs. Also during the week, warriors from K9s For Warriors, Gold Star families and representatives from the Four Star Veterans Center served as special guests of the TOUR.
Now celebrating its 14th anniversary, Birdies for the Brave is a national military outreach initiative proudly supported by the PGA TOUR, which is dedicated to honoring and showing appreciation to the courageous men and women of our U.S. Armed Forces and their families. Since 2004, Birdies for the Brave has raised more than $20 million for 11 military homefront charities and annually conducts military outreach and appreciation activities during more than 80 tournaments on the PGA TOUR, PGA TOUR Champions and Web.com Tour. For more information about Birdies for the Brave, visit www.birdiesforthebrave.org or follow them on Facebook.