A large U.S. flag unfurled from the top of a Coon Rapids Fire Department ladder truck greeted participants in the third annual Tee it up for the Troops golf event at Bunker Hills Golf Course Aug. 15.
The purpose of the tournament is to support veterans and their families, specifically the families of fallen veterans and those with disabilities.
But the day was more than just a round of golf.
There was an opening ceremony, which was open to the public, to honor veterans and their families as well as a pre-tournament lunch and post-tournament dinner, which also included a silent auction and program.
According to Tournament Director Pat Reis, there were 235 golfers, including celebrities, taking part in the event.
Sixty veterans teed off for a nine-hole morning round, then were invited to stay for lunch, Reis said.
Another 175 golfers played in the afternoon, he said.
The invitation to local veterans to play a free round of golf was new this year at the Bunker Hills event, Reis said.
“Other Tee it up for the Troops events have had free rounds for veterans and they have been successful,” he said.
That was also the case at Bunker Hills Aug. 15, Reis said.
“It was a great success,” he said.
Not only did the veterans have the chance to play a round of golf, they were also given a clinic by the professionals at the GolfTEC training center that has recently opened at the Bunker Hills course, according to Reis.
“The professionals donated their time for the clinic as well as working with the golfers on the course,” Reis said.
Reis estimates the event will bring in $20,000 for the Tee it up for the Troops, Inc. programs for veterans and their families, he said.
That figure is about the same amount of money that was raised from the first two years of the tournament, Reis said.
“We appreciate the strong community support,” he said.
Much of the money raised from the tournament will stay in the Coon Rapids area, according to Reis.
He is working with John Kriesel, tournament chairperson and Anoka County veterans service director, on local programs, Reis said.
One project they are considering is a Christmas party for veterans and their families at the Bunker Hills Clubhouse, he said.
Many of the veterans that played a morning round of golf stayed for the noon opening ceremony, which was emceed by Kriesel, who served 10 years in the Minnesota Army National Guard, including tours of duty in Kosovo and Iraq, where he lost both his legs in combat in 2006 in an encounter with a roadside bomb and now has prosthetic legs.
Before becoming Anoka County’s veterans service director, Kriesel served in the Minnesota House for two years.
The opening ceremony included the national anthem sung by Megan Kirsch, a St. Paul singer-songwriter; bag piper Emilio Munoz, a member of the Osseo-based American Heritage Pipes and Drums; the Minnesota National Guard Honor Guard; and a three-volley salute fired by members of the Anoka County chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Members of the Beardsley family of Anoka County were presented with a wreath and flowers in memory of their son, William, who was killed in action in Iraq.
Guest speaker was Brig. Gen. Neal Loidolt, director of joint staff of the Minnesota National Guard. He has been in the National Guard for more than 28 years and a full-time soldier for over 20 years.
He thanked all those participating in the event in support of veterans.
According to Loidolt, everyone has a common purpose, supporting veterans in all of the military and their families.
Tee it up for the Troops is a great organization and it was good to see veterans from the Korean and Vietnam wars supporting its efforts when they did not have that kind of support when they served their country, Loidolt said.
Among the celebrities playing in the fivesomes that teed off in the afternoon were Randall McDaniel, Joey Browner, Bob Lurtsema and Stu Voigt, former Minnesota Vikings; JP Parise, former Minnesota North Star; Juan Berenguer, former Minnesota Twin; and Alan Merrick, former Minnesota Kicks soccer player.
Also on hand for the event were Miss Coon Rapids Emily Kallis and Miss Coon Rapids Outstanding Teen Kathryn Kuepper.
Tee it up for the Troops, Inc. was established in 2005 to help support the fallen and disabled members of the military and their families.
The National Day of Golf was subsequently created with numerous golf outings throughout the country where proceeds benefit veterans of all branches and conflicts.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]