by Ken MacLeod
An exciting new chapter of the Patriot Cup Invitational was announced Monday by Folds of Honor Foundation founder Dan Rooney. The Patriot Golf Championship, a national online competition in which golfers can go one-on-one with some of their favorite golfers, will take place in May with the winners revealed on Memorial Day.
Here is how it works. From May 1 to May 25, golfers go online to www.patriotgolfchampionship.com to register their most recent net round on the website and choose which of several participating PGA Tour golfers they want to compete against. Many of the top names in golf have pledged to participate and the lineup will be announced soon.
The cost to play is $21, same as the 21-gun salute paid fallen war heroes. All the pros will designate one of their rounds in May as their Patriot round and highlights of those rounds will be recorded by PGA Tour Productions. The round will not be revealed until a live broadcast on Fox Sports 1 from The Patriot on Memorial Day, tentatively from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. CDT.
Anyone whose score is better than their designated professional will receive a commemorative Patriot Golf Championship medallion. Golfers can sign up to play more than one professional.
Drew Russell, a vice president of Intersport, which will help organize and promote the event nationally, said the hope is that it becomes one of the world’s largest golf tournaments.
"It’s a huge opportunity for the Folds of Honor, as now every golfer can contribute in a significant way," Russell said. "We will promote it through various publications and do a lot of social marketing on Facebook and Twitter and be communicating with golf courses all around the country."
Rooney said he is hopeful that after a national campaign to publicize the event, more than 100,000 golfers will participate the first year with a goal of more than one million annually in future years. More details will be forthcoming soon.
Although the Folds of Honor has grown tremendously in the five years since it’s inception, the need continues to outweigh the resources. Rooney noted that the recent high profile sponsorship of a NASCAR race in Atlanta provided by Quik Trip Corporation resulted in significant funds raised, but also in more than 2,000 new requests for scholarships from military families who became aware of the foundation through the high profile of the racing event.
The Folds of Honor distributes educational scholarships to families of U.S. servicemen or women who were killed or wounded in the line of duty. To date it has awarded more than 7,500 scholarships, including scholarships to the family of Kara Lenard of Claremore. She, her five children and husband William Lenard, a Marine Corp. Sergeant who completed three tours of duty in Iraq, received three Purple Hearts and had his story documented in a new book titled "A New Dawn," attended Monday’s press conference at the Folds of Honor building in Owasso.
The Patriot Cup itself will return to the Patriot Golf Course on May 25, once again featuring golf professionals and celebrities in a pro-am format with golfers from the U.S. Armed Services. Tickets are $25 and will be on sale at all area Quik Trip stores in May. Children 15 and under are free. Rooney said many new names will be on the roster as the field is finalized in coming weeks.
NOTES: On the near horizon for the Folds of Honor are some significant agreements to be announced with new corporate partners, agreements that will help the FOH continue to keep pace with its increased requests for scholarships. Rooney introduced Rachael Lehman, daughter of Champions Tour golfer Tom Lehman, as the new director of the Patriot Cup Invitational and said the Folds of Honor staff will be beefing up to handle the new national initiatives.
The father of five daughters who served three tours of duty in Iraq as an F-16 fighter pilot in the Oklahoma Air National Guard also revealed that he will return to flying jets in the near future. Rooney is going in for two months of training, then will be flying six times a month out of Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida on what Rooney termed an "adversary squadron," teaching maneuvers and tactics to young U.S. pilots.
Rooney hasn’t flown for several years, but said he never intended to stop, but was too consumed with building the foundation to spare the time.
"I’ve got about five or six years left and just really wanted to get back to it while I can," Rooney said.
For non-golfers who want to contribute to the cause, more details will be forthcoming soon on a 1.3 kilometer Mission March, in which runners and walkers will contribute $13 (one dollar for every fold in the U.S. flag) to participate in a downtown Tulsa race on May 24. Make sure to subscribe to the Golf Oklahoma newsletter to keep up with all the announcements on the race and the fields and other details for the Patriot Cup Invitational and the Patriot Golf Championship