Birdies for the Brave coming to Piper Glen Nov. 3
by Kim Gibson
Piper Glen Country Club needs another 48 golfers to reach a full field for the 2010 Birdies for the Brave Tournament & Auction on Nov. 3.
Each player who places a ball on the tee is guaranteed to hit a hole-in-one for injured or disabled veterans or the families of soldiers who gave their lives in service to their country.
Birdies for the Brave is part of the Professional Golfers Association Tours Charities Inc. PGA Tour champion Phil Mickelson and his wife, Amy, organized the first tournament to help military personnel injured during combat, and now the organization has grown to support six Military Homefront groups and four newer partner organizations.
Steve Kupcha is manager of public relations and community outreach for Birdies for the Brave. He’s also a former Navy Seal. He explained that 100 percent of the proceeds from Birdies’ tournaments go to the military outreach charities they support.
From 2005 to the end of 2009, Birdies for the Brave has raised $5.2 million, including $1.75 million in 2009. After Birdies tournaments are completed this year across the country, the nonprofit’s governing board will divide the proceeds among the 10 outreach groups in January.
Kupcha would still be in the military if he hadn’t gotten injured, he said. “That’s why I do this job,” he added. “I feel like I’m still part of the team.”
Besides the tournaments, Birdies for the Brave hosts hospitality tents for the military at all PGA tournaments. Military personnel just need to show their ID, and they, along with their families, receive free admission, along with food and refreshments during the entire tournament.
“It’s a full week of fun at a sporting event for them and their families,” Kupcha said.
This is the sixth year Piper Glen has hosted the event, which was originally part of America Supports You, a U.S. Department of Defense initiative to enable citizens to communicate their support to the armed forces. Last year’s event raised about $43,000, according to Club Administrator Colleen Carow. This year’s lead sponsor is Zimmer Carolinas.
“This year we hope to raise $50,000,” she said.
A full field would include 144 golfers, and this week, 96 had registered to play. Registration remains open online at Piper Glen’s website, www.tpcpiperglen.com.
The event is open to the public, and Carow encourages club members and non-members alike to join in the tournament. A four-some costs $800 and a hole sponsor, which includes a sign at the tee and a complimentary four-some, costs $1,300. Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group is a media sponsor of the event.
The silent auction opens at 10 a.m. that morning and includes such items as tickets to sporting events, golf clothing and a stay at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville.
This year’s event features an appearance by Dennis Walters, a paraplegic who, before an accident in 1974, always dreamed of playing on the PGA Tour. Walters will perform trick shots and give golfing advice from 11:30 a.m. until 12:15 p.m.
Kupcha recently attended an event in San Francisco for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, one of the outreach groups supported by the Birdies for the Brave.
The event – held to honor three Navy Seals and a Seal technician killed in the line of duty – reminded Kupcha of the comfort he had while deployed, knowing others would watch out for his wife and children if the worst happened.
“By supporting these military homefront groups, we know we’re making a difference,” Kupcha said. “This program is nothing without the support of all the participants, and we are so grateful to them all.”
Birdies for the Brave supports six Military Homefront groups:
• Homes For Our Troops, a nonprofit organization, supported by PGA Tour player Phil Mickelson, that builds or adapts new homes designed for military men and women with serious injuries and disabilities. (www.homes
• Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a nonprofit organization, also supported by Mickelson, that provides free college scholarships and educational counseling to the children of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps Special Operations personnel lost in performance of their duty. (www.specialops.org)
• Naval Special Warfare Foundation, a nonprofit group supported by PGA Tour players Jerry Kelly, Frank Lickliter II and Vijay Singh that provides educational and motivational support, promotes health and welfare programs for the Naval Special Warfare community and perpetuates the history and heritage of the U.S. Naval Commandos. (www.nswfoundation.org)
• Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization, supported by PGA Tour players Frank Lickliter II, Jason Gore, Boo Weekley and Nick Watney, that provides programs and services to meet the specialized needs of severely injured service men and women. (www.woundedwarriorproject.org)
Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization, supported by PGA Tour player Corey Pavin, that provides emergency assistance and morale to deployed troops and the families and to wounded warriors when they return home. (www.operationhomefront.net)
United Through Reading, a nonprofit, supported by PGA Tour player Rory Sabbatini, that helps families separated by a soldier’s assignment remain bonded by reading aloud together through a DVD-sharing program. (www.unitedthroughreading.org)
Birdies’ four partner organizations go through a yearlong review process by the U.S. Department of Defense before they qualify as Military Homefront groups. They are:
• Military Warriors Support Foundation, a nonprofit, supported by PGA Tour player Ted Purdy, provides practical opportunities to those injured during military service. (www.militarywarriors.org)
• Green Beret Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides financial resources for health and welfare programs for wounded, ill or injured Special Forces soldiers, where no other assistance is available. The foundation also assists families of those soliders. (www.greenberetfoundation.org)
• Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a nonprofit, supported by PGA Tour player Rory Sabbatini, that serves the families of military personnel killed while on duty. (www.fallenheroesfund.org)
• National Guard State Family Readiness Council, a nonprofit that supports a number of projects and programs providing assistance to deployed military personnel and their families. (www.nationalguardsfrc.org)