By Ken Klavon, USGA
October 14, 2011
Pam Murray, a USGA Women’s Committee member, remembers receiving the phone call about nine months ago. On the other end was USGA past champion Carolyn Creekmore, who was calling on behalf of former President George W. Bush.
Bush and Creekmore, who are friends, were in the midst of putting together the first annual Warrior Open, a golf tournament for U.S. service members who have been severely injured in the global war on terror.
“President Bush made it clear that he wanted the tournament to be run like a USGA championship,” said Murray.
Creekmore, the 2004 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur champion, asked Murray if she could put together a staff of Rules officials for the Warrior Open, scheduled for Oct. 10-11. Moreover, she wanted Murray to handle all of the inside-the-ropes activities, from verifying the scorecards to working on the course setup at Las Colinas Country Club, which is in Irving, Texas, outside Dallas. Murray recruited 10 officials who have worked a myriad of USGA championships to run the tournament.
The 36-hole competition would be a two-day event, with the field limited to 21 players, although 20 ultimately participated. The Army, Air Force and Navy were represented. The field was made up of amputees and those who suffered from traumatic brain injuries, or both. Between 2,000 and 3,000 spectators attended, Murray said.
According to the Wounded Warrior website, golf is an important part of the rehabilitation process for many of those seriously injured on the front lines. The game provides an opportunity to leave the hospital environment and get some fresh air. It requires focus and concentration, which can help take the mind off the recovery process and the pain. It provides an opportunity to hone movement and motor skills.
Once the participants were chosen, American Airlines flew them and their families at no cost to Dallas. They were put up by the Omni Hotel chain and a Mercedes was provided to each of them to get them to and from the course.
Legendary golfers Kathy Whitworth and Ben Crenshaw attended, as did the Grammy Award-winning country band Rascal Flatts, who sang the National Anthem the first day. Bush attended both days.
Following the first day of the tournament, members of the U.S. armed services who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were honored during a dinner and a Rascal Flatts concert.
Murray said Bush paid tribute to the military during a speech at the dinner on the campus of Southern Methodist University, which was attended by about 250 people. Crenshaw also spoke at the dinner.
"Watching these warriors play golf is fantastic," Bush said during the dinner, according to the Associated Press. "It is moving."
Cpl. Chad Pfeifer, who lost a leg to an improvised explosive device in 2007 while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, won the tournament with a score of 11 over par. He discovered golf while undergoing physical therapy at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
“This one being the first one, it’s an honor to get it, but to all of our brothers and sisters who paid the ultimate sacrifice, this one’s for them,” said Pfeifer.
Murray said the event was overwhelming. To see each player overcome adversity of some sort made a mark.
“It’s probably the best thing I’ve done in my entire life,” said Murray. “With what they have been through, getting their lives back together was extremely moving.”