Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Golfers Make Birdies for the Brave; They Even Put on Body Armor to Raise Money to Help Those Injured in Combat

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Golfers Make Birdies for the Brave; They Even Put on Body Armor to Raise Money to Help Those Injured in Combat

Article excerpt

Byline: MAGGIE FITZROY

When he was fighting in Iraq, Army Staff Sgt. Dan Nevins wore a helmet and heavy bulletproof body vest every day.

Monday, every player who teed off at hole No. 13 at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course wore that gear.

"Ohhhh, that's monstrous," Nevins shouted after he struggled to whack the ball and send it sailing through the air.

"A little flashback," he said with a grin. "I'm surprised how heavy it feels."

Nevins, who lost both legs from injuries from an improvised explosive devise in Iraq, now plays golf on prosthetic legs and works for The PGA Tour.

He was a guest speaker and player at a Birdies for the Brave event in Ponte Vedra Beach that is part of a nationwide PGA Tour military outreach program.

The event, which kicked off with a 9 a.m. dedication ceremony, was followed by a game with many area golf enthusiasts and military personnel sponsored by local support organizations.

Birdies for the Brave was created in 2005 to support the men and women of the U.S. armed forces and their families.

PGA Tour players and corporate partners raise money at golf events for home-front groups that serve military personnel who have been injured in combat.

Several military helicopters on the driving range provided a backdrop for the opening ceremony hosted by PGA Tour player Frank Lickliter. The ceremony kicked off with a presentation of colors by the Nease High School Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps color guard and the Florida Army National Guard.

TPC Sawgrass employee Emily Johnson sang the national anthem and Maj. Shane Gaster, senior chaplain from the Charleston, S.C. Air Force base, gave the invocation. Six military home-front groups were also recognized: Homes for Our Troops, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Naval Special Warfare Foundation, the Wounded Warrior Project and Operation Homefront.

Guest speakers, in addition to Nevins, included Gen. Doug Brown, retired commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem.

"Our efforts will continue. We will try to make it bigger and better as we move forward," said Finchem, who spoke of his admiration for the wounded warriors he met at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D. …

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