Jack Nicklaus kicks off Patriot Golf Day to benefit Folds of Honor, troops and families

Jack Nicklaus with Major Dan Rooney, a PGA Professional, USGA member and former F-16 military pilot

Jack Nicklaus with Major Dan Rooney, a PGA Professional, USGA member and former F-16 military pilot

An American icon joined an American hero to kick off Patriot Golf Day®Fox & Friends Weekends aired a live interview last Saturday morning with the Golden Bear and Major Dan Rooney —a PGA Professional, USGA member and former F-16 military pilot who founded Folds of Honor, a non-profit organization that provides educational scholarships to the families of service men and women who have been disabled or killed in service to their country.

Throughout Labor Day weekend and for the sixth consecutive year, thousands of golf facilities nationwide hosted Patriot Golf Day events. Participating facilities collected donations and raised awareness for Folds of Honor (FoldsofHonor.org). Over 4,500 facilities registered to participate in Patriot Golf Day 2012, and Folds of Honor officials hope to raise more than $4.5 million from Patriot Golf Day activities this year. Since its inception in 2007—and before last weekend’s campaign—PGA Professionals and USGA Members have helped raise close to $13 million through Patriot Golf Day events, allowing Folds of Honor to award more than 3,500 educational scholarships. President George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States of America, serves as the Honorary Chairman of Patriot Golf Day.

Joined via satellite from Lost Tree Club in North Palm Beach, Fla., Jack and “Major Dan” discussed their shared love of the military; their shared love of golf; and how golf raises significant dollars for myriad charities, including many to benefit our military men and women and their families. The interview was with Fox & Friendshost Dave Briggs.

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As the interview suggested, the Golden Bear has been a long-time supporter of efforts aimed at helping our servicemen and women, including American Lake Veterans Golf Course. American Lake, located outside Tacoma, Wash., is the only course in America designed specifically for the use of wounded and disabled veterans. The existing nine holes at the 60-year-old course has become a respite for soldiers looking to recreate and rehabilitate, and use the healing powers of golf to transition back into the mainstream of life. In 2011, over 17,000 veterans, along with their families, came to American Lake to play golf. The stress placed on the course from such extensive play is staggering. So the Golden Bear offered to donate his design services to create an additional 9 holes and renovate the existing 9 holes. The addition of the “Nicklaus Nine” will relieve the current stress on the course while at the same time accommodating the projected 50,000 and more players that will be drawn to American Lake Veterans Golf Course in years to come.

The goal is to raise $5 million—$3.5 million for the new nine and $1.5 million for renovation of the existing nine and ongoing operations. To date, they have raised $1.5 million and need help. Some work has begun for the Nicklaus Nine and land clearing will begin in spring of 2013. To make a donation to American Lake, visit veterangolf.org.

“I never had the privilege to serve our country, but I have such a deep-rooted respect and appreciation for the men and women who have,” Nicklaus said this week. “For what these men and women have given to us and for us—the sacrifices of life and limb for our country—you can count me in to help out in any way I can. Just to be asked to be involved, be it with programs like Patriot Golf Day or American Lake Veterans Golf Course, is a privilege.”

During Labor Day weekend, participating golf facilities around the country hosted special events and tournaments or simply asked golfers to donate at least one additional dollar to their greens fee. Non-golfers can also participate by making a donation to the foundation at its web site, FoldsofHonor.org. In 2011, Patriot Golf Day and related activities raised a record of more than $3.9 million to benefit Folds of Honor.

Rooney developed the concept of Patriot Golf Day and founded the Folds of Honor Foundation in 2007, following his second of three tours of duty in Iraq. After returning from his second tour, Major Rooney witnessed a profound display of a family’s grief as they welcomed home the remains of Corporal Brock Bucklin. Inspired by this tragic homecoming of a fallen American soldier, Rooney started the Folds of Honor Foundation to provide support to military families in the aftermath of their tragedies.

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