NORTH PORT, Fla.— A distinct military connection runs deep at the inaugural SKYiGOLF Championship with the tournament’s charity benefactor being Folds of Honor, a 501C-3 nonprofit organization dedicated to providing educational scholarships to the children and spouses of fallen and wounded military members.
For one Epson Tour professional AJ Newell (Tampa, Florida), the mission has stayed close to her heart since the final round of the 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship on Memorial Day at The Concession Golf Club, just 50 miles north of the SKYiGOLF Championship host site Charlotte Harbor National Golf Club at Bobcat Trail. On the first tee as players were announced, so too was a fallen soldier that they would be playing for. Newell was matched with U.S. Navy Petty Officer Third Class John David House, a native of California who had been killed with 30 Marines on Feb. 6, 2005 when the helicopter transporting their unit in Western Iraq crashed near Ar-Rutbah.
“I remember writing his name on my scorecard and thinking, ‘You know what, I’m playing for something a lot greater than myself,’” said Newell. “I wouldn’t be able to do my job if it wasn’t for the brave people that protect our country.”
Newell uses free time during Epson Tour and LPGA Tour travels to visit and view World War II historical sites. She got hooked in her early teenage years when she listened to The Corps series by W.E.B. Griffin. Today, one can find her using a U.S Marine Corps golf ball marker during tournament rounds.
This week, the University of Tennessee alumna is pledging $10 for every birdie she converts to Folds of Honor and $25 per eagle. SKYiGOLF is backing Newell’s support by donating $25 and $100 for every birdie and eagle she makes, respectively. Last year, SKYiGOLF donated $55,000 to Folds of Honor and continues to raise awareness of the cause. Those wishing to make a donation of their own may do so at foldsofhonor.org.
“It is truly an honor to help raise money this week for an organization that supports the backbone of our nation, especially the families of these courageous servicemen and women,” Newell said. “If you don’t know about Folds of Honor, their mission is admirable and features a committed leadership team.”