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Tiger Woods Includes Military in Golf Tournament Festivities

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 4, 2007 – Tiger Woods said paying tribute to the U.S. military was one of his goals during the weeklong AT&T National golf tournament he's hosting here, and so far he's kept his promise.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Sgt. Maj. Mia Kelly sets up to putt during the inaugural Earl Woods Memorial Pro-Am Tournament, part of the AT&T National PGA Tour event, July 4, 2007, at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. Kelly was one of two servicemembers honored to participate in a foursome with Tiger Woods in honor of soldiers and military families. Defense Dept. photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Molly A. Burgess, USN.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

He arranged for former president and WWII veteran, George H.W. Bush, to join the foursome at the end of their round, and he brought scores of military personnel here, including wounded veterans from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

“My dad was retired, but I grew up on a military base, and played golf there and that was my home course,” Woods told thousands of attendees gathered at Congressional Country Club’s first hole for the opening ceremony events.

“For me, all my life, I’ve been part of the military,” he said. “I’ve always been around (servicemembers,) I understand the commitment it takes for men and women to do what they do each and every day. That’s a commitment that I don’t think that people truly understand.

“Especially with what’s going on overseas, we need to say ‘Thank you’ somehow, and this is a small way of doing that,” Woods said.

The world’s top-rated golfer then teed up the ceremonial first shot for former President Bush.

“The ‘No Laughing Rule’ is in effect,” Bush joked with the audience as he approached the tee. “If anybody laughs when I hit it, they’re dead! We’ve got the secret service here to attack.”

Bush hit a beautiful drive downrange, in the direction of a 60-foot American flag that Army soldiers from Ft. Belvoir, Va., and their families had unfurled and were holding waist-level above the fairway.

On a more serious note, the former president said he decided to be involved in today’s ceremonies because it’s a great way to celebrate Independence Day. The decision, he said using golf jargon, was a “gimme.”

“The fact that (Woods) has tied in our superb military into this event made it easy,” Bush said.

Today’s military musical selection included the National Anthem, sung by Army Spc. Vicki Golding of the 257th Army Band, Washington, D.C. National Guard, and performances by the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Band. The U.S. Air Force Drill Team provided visual entertainment, and the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard displayed America’s military banners, marching the flags across the first hole’s fairway.

The District of Columbia National Guard flew an OH-58 Kiowa, and three UH-1 Huey helicopters over the crowd. Many audience members included servicemembers in and out of uniform, as Woods arranged for tournament sponsors to distribute 30,000 free tickets to active U.S. military personnel.

AT&T, was the tournament’s primary sponsor , and is the company’s Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson was the only non-professional civilian to play as a member of Woods’ early-morning golf foursome.

“The recognition and the honor that we’re bringing to these soldiers in our military is very important for us,” Stephenson told the crowd. “We’ve always had a long history of supporting the military and right now in this time, to be a part of that was important.

“So we thank all of you who are serving us,” he said. “We have a debt to you that we can’t repay.”

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