Tiger Woods to Honor Servicemembers

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

BETHESDA, Md., May 30, 2007 - Thirty thousand active-duty servicemembers and guests will be able to attend the inaugural AT&T National invitational golf tournament July 3-8, professional golfer Tiger Woods announced here yesterday.

Woods, who's hosting the event at Congressional Country Club here, made the announcement from the storied venue's clubhouse. He said he understands what it means to be part of a military family and that he wants to acknowledge the sacrifices the nation's servicemembers are making.

"I grew up in that household," Woods, whose late father was a Vietnam veteran, said. "I have friends who are in the military as well, so I know the level of commitment that it takes for them and the things that they do."

It's no coincidence that the tournament incorporates the Fourth of July holiday.

"It's our nation's birthday," he added. "I don't think it could be any better than to have it (then) in D.C. and have all the servicemen and women come out and have it on this golf course."

The newest PGA Tour tournament is working with the military's Pentagon-based Morale, Welfare, and Recreation office to distribute the tickets, 5,000 for each day of the tournament, Greg McLaughlin, president of the Tiger Woods Foundation, said.

"Our intent is to honor and really thank the people that protect us," he said.

As part of that effort, servicemembers attending the tournament will have their own VIP entrance near the 16th green that will lead to a special seating gallery. Their valid military identification card also will garner them discounts on concessions, McLaughlin said.

"We've got about 10 items in cooperation with the PGA Tour and the Pentagon that we've been working on," he added. "These details will come out later this week and in the weeks leading up to the tournament."

The tournament, which has a $6 million purse, will consist of 72 holes of regulation play. Participation is open to 120 players by invitation only. Though many pro golfers set their schedules before the beginning of the year, Jim Furyk, Adam Scott, Davis Love III and Darren Clarke have joined the field in the quest for the winner's $1.08 million prize.

While Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els won't hit the Congressional links, Vijay Singh is "up in the air," Woods said.

Woods, who's ranked No. 1 in the world, said he's intending to play, though Mother Nature may have other plans. His wife, Elin, is expecting the couple's first child and could give birth during the tournament.

That fact gave way to a hypothetical question that drew a good laugh from the crowd gathered for the news conference. A reporter asked what Woods would do if he were on the 18th green, holding a one-stroke lead, and got a call saying Elin had just gone into labor.

"Well, I'll have to play real quick, won't I?" Woods said, breaking into a wide smile as the room burst into laughter. "A (birdie) will win, won't it?"

No matter which player claims the tournament title, the real winners will be the children reached through the programs offered by the Tiger Woods Foundation, one of the tournament's beneficiaries. Other D.C.-based charities also will benefit.

Woods and his father, Earl, established the foundation in 1996 with the mission of empowering young people to dream big and set goals to achieve those dreams through community-based programs, according to the foundation's Web site. An estimated 10 million children have benefited to date.

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