LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. (December 30, 2018) – The significance of the fallen soldier’s name embroidered on the golf bags carried by the golfers playing in this weekend’s Patriot All-America Invitational carries special meaning for many. For three collegiate golfers in particular, the soldier’s names stitched on their bags have a more personal and deeper meaning.
First round co-leader Isaiah Jackson from the University of Memphis is playing in honor of his great grandfather, U.S. Army Private First Class Willie B. McGill. Private First Class McGill was killed in combat action on December 4th, 1944.
Hayden Springer from Texas Christian University is playing in honor of Marine Corps Major Samuel M. Griffith. Major Griffith, an F/A-18 pilot, died Dec. 14, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations. Neyland Springer, who is caddying for his son during the tournament, was Major Griffith’s flight instructor in flight school. The now retired Lt. Commander Springer taught Naval and Marine Corp pilots at Naval Air Stations in Mississippi and Florida.
Tate Tatom, a senior at the U.S. Air Force Academy, requested to carry the bag of U.S. Air Force Major Stephen Del Bagno. Major Del Bagno was a member of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team. He was killed earlier this year when his F-16 crashed in the Nevada desert.
“I’m excited to be carrying the bag honoring Major Del Bagno and playing in the Patriot,” said Tatom. “I requested Major Del Bagno because of the extreme respect I hold for both him and the Thunderbirds as a whole. They put their life on the line every day to inspire the next generation of airmen and Air Force aviators. I don’t want Major Del Bagno’s sacrifice to ever be forgotten, and I’m hoping the Patriot will give me a chance to help remember him and his story, and what he has done for our country.”
The Patriot All-America is a golf tournament unlike any other as all 84 participants play in honor of a fallen or severely injured soldier by carrying a golf bag bearing the name of a soldier. Participants receive a card with the soldier’s story, so they can be familiar with who that person was, what they represented and how they were killed or wounded in action. The Patriot All-America has been honoring fallen or severely wounded soldiers in this unique way since the event’s inception in 2011 and it continues to have a deep impact on the young golfers.
“It’s not uncommon to see family members of the honored soldiers in the gallery and following the golfers,” said Patriot All-America Executive Director Karen Conway. “It’s very powerful and emotional when the golfers meet the families and realize they are representing more than just themselves or their university.”
At the conclusion of the tournament, the golf bags will be shipped to players’ schools and auctioned with all proceeds benefitting the Folds of Honor Foundation, which provides post-secondary educational scholarships for children and spouses of military service men and women killed or disabled while in active service.
Now in its 8th year, the Patriot All-America Invitational features a field of 84 PING All-America golfers from all three NCAA Divisions, NAIA and NJCAA rankings as well as from U.S. Military Academies and universities outside the United States.
The Patriot All-America is a collaboration between the Arizona Golf Association, JDM Partners, The West Valley Mavericks and the Golf Coaches Association of America in partnership with the Folds of Honor Foundation. The Thunderbirds, hosts of the PGA TOUR’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, volunteer at and support the event.
Patriot All-America alumni now playing on the PGA TOUR, include three-time major winner Brooks Koepka (2011 Patriot participant); Justin Thomas (2011); Daniel Berger (2012); Bryson DeChambeau (2013); and Cameron Champ, the 2016 Patriot All-America Invitational champion.
The 54-hole, stroke-play competition will conclude on Monday (New Year’s Eve) with a champion crowned at approximately 4 PM MST. The winner of the Patriot All-America will receive a sponsor exemption into the Web.com Tour’s Wichita Open played June 20 – 23 at Crestview Country Club in Wichita, Kansas. For more information on The Patriot All-America Invitational presented by the Valley Toyota Dealers, visit www.patriotallamerica.com.