Golf event boosts veterans projects

An emotional ceremony preceded the second annual Tee It Up for the Troops golf event at Bunker Hills Golf Course, Coon Rapids, Aug. 24.

Gold Star Mother Merrilee Carlson escorted by a member of the Minnesota National Guard lays a wreath in remembrance of those have died serving their country.

Gold Star Mother Merrilee Carlson escorted by a member of the Minnesota National Guard lays a wreath in remembrance of those have died serving their country.

Some 200 people, including celebrities, gathered for the scramble golf tournament on the Bunker Hills Golf Course and dinner and silent auction that followed in the Bunker Hills Clubhouse’s Harvest Grill restaurant.

Money raised from the event goes to the Burnsville-based National Tee It Up for the Troops organization for distribution to programs that benefit veterans and their families.

But before golfers teed off they gathered in the outside patio area at the clubhouse for opening ceremonies to honor veterans and their families.

Emceed by Heidi Collins, Fox 9 news anchor and a members of the board of directors of the National Tee It Up for the Troops organization, the program included bugler Harry Reiner, a World War II U.S. Navy veteran; bagpiper Tom Hinrickson; presentation of the colors by members of the Minnesota National Guard; and the singing of the national anthem by Julius Andrews IV, a 12-year-old Coon Rapids resident.

In addition, Col. Dick Kloss, brigade commander, 84th Troop Command, Minnesota Army National Guard, spoke and Merrilee Carlson, Gold Star Mother and president of Military Families United, laid a wreath.

According to Kloss, events like Tee It Up for the Troops help all service members and their families.

The level of support that communities are giving veterans and their families has not been seen before, Kloss said.

“We thank you all for what your have done and what you will do in the future,” he said.

Carlson, who lives in Hastings, lost her son Sgt. Michael Carlson, while he was serving in Iraq in January 2005.

A gun salute was fired by members of the Anoka County Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans and America, singer Tim Mahoney sang “God Bless America” and former Coon Rapids resident and country music star Rockie Lynne sang a song he wrote himself to honor the Vietnam veterans.

According to Lynne, he wrote the song to say long overdue thanks for the service of Vietnam vets.

“I’m sorry it took so long,” Lynne wrote in the song.

Lynne, a U.S. Army veteran, travels to Iraq and Afghanistan every Christmas to perform for troop in forward operating bases, he said.

He has set up his own charity, Tribute to the Troops, to help the families of fallen veterans, Lynne said.

The first Tee It Up for the Troops event in 2011 was a success, but this year’s was even more successful, according to Pat Reis, tournament director.

More people played golf and more money was raised – upwards of $20,000, Reis said.

“The tournament has grown and that is exciting,” he said.

“A lot of people have heard about the event and called us to sign up.”

Local celebrities taking part in the second annual Tee It Up for the Troops event Friday included former Minnesota Vikings Rickey Young, Joey Browner, Stu Voigt and Ted Brown; retired soccer players Alan Merrick and Tony Sanneh; former University of Minnesota quarterback Ricky Foggie and painter Bud Chapman.

Former Coon Rapids City Council member Joe Sidoti launched the event last year after playing in other Tee It Up for the Troops projects and seeing the impact they had.

Sidoti resigned from the council earlier this year and relocated to Florida because of his job.

He remained tournament chairman of the 2012 event, but was unable to attend because of job commitments.

To promote the event at Bunker Hills, the city of Coon Rapids, which operates both the golf course and clubhouse, received an $11,250 grant from Twin Cities Gateway (Minnesota Metro North Tourism).

In return for its grant, Twin Cities Gateway (TCG), of which Coon Rapids is a member, was identified as an official lodging partner for the event, its logo and website address were included on new print and online materials produced and TCG banners were displayed on-site at the tournament.

The Tee It Up for the Troops organization was created in 2005 to help support fallen and disabled members of the military and their families.

Tee It Up for the Troops subsequently launched the National Day of Golf which has resulted in numerous golf outings throughout the country where the proceeds benefit veterans of all branches of the military and their families.

Ninety-five percent of all dollars raised has gone to programs that support veterans and their families, according to the Tee It Up for the Troops website.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com


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