Written By: Greg Johnson
SELFRIDGE ANGB – Phillip Yeager hit his tee shot left of the fairway and found it nestled in rough under the branches of a large tree. He had enough room to play the next shot and pounded his golf ball back toward the fairway. It drifted right into another line of trees.
“I’m playing military golf today, left, right, left, right,” he quipped while shaking his head.
Yeager was playing military golf in more ways than one as the Golf Association of Michigan presented one of its popular GAM Golf Days at Selfridge Golf Course on the Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Macomb County Friday.
It was GAM Military Golf Day and a field of 60 golfers signed up, among them Yeager, who lives in Grand Rapids, but used to live in Mount Clemens near the base and served his country for four years as an Air Force pilot. He was dressed for the occasion, too, in red, white and blue with small American flags decorating his white shirt.
“I play in a lot of the Golf Days and it’s a great idea to have one here,” he said. “Everybody from around the state gets to see the base, see the military right in our state and play a nice golf course they probably haven’t seen, too.”
GAM Golf Days are an annual service to member golfers and are scheduled throughout the summer at private and high-end courses they might not otherwise have the opportunity to play. GAM members get to play some competitive golf on those days for special rates. Awards for several net and gross scoring categories are handed out, and there’s even a special championship tournament day at the end of the season. See GAM.org to learn more.
Yeager wasn’t the only veteran who took part.
Ann Arbor resident Gerald Bruce, 81, is a 21-year veteran of the Armed Services, six years in the U.S. Air Force followed by 15 as part of the Navy Reserves at Selfridge.
“I wouldn’t miss this one,” he said. “I tell people all the time this is a great golf course, and because they are not in the military or veterans they don’t get a chance to play it. I’ve played a lot of golf courses. This stacks right up there with most of them.”
Bruce said he felt compelled to visit the base to play for another reason, too.
“What makes it special to me right now is that it’s really close to 9/11, okay,” he said. “I think 9/11 is on the minds of most military people, well, a lot of people right now. I want to honor 9/11, remember it, and being here helps that and it’s really nice to be back on the base again. I’m comfortable on a military base.”
His cart partner for the day turned out to be another veteran comfortable on a base. Joe Shaffer, who is 65, helps his wife run an adult family care facility, but he previously served 12 years in the U.S. Army, seven as part of the Military Police and five as a tank mechanic, and he was deployed during Desert Storm.
He continued after his service with his mechanic skills working for a company commissioned by the U.S. Navy to maintain military equipment on what he termed as pre-positioning ships in the Mariana Islands (14 islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean that are an unincorporated territory and commonwealth of the United States).
“I saw the world,” he said. “I’ve been through the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal, been a lot of places.”
Another Golf Day regular, he was happy to be at Selfridge Monday.
“Recognizing the military with a Golf Day is just a great idea,” he said.
The idea was hatched by Janina Jacobs, a longtime GAM Governor who is chairperson of the GAM’s Member Relations Committee.
“I just thought that with all the major golf associations, the USGA, LPGA and PGA all honoring military and veterans in their tournaments in various ways and forums that we should look at doing something,” she said. “I thought it was a good idea to try to incorporate some of our veterans of the military in some of our events, and I know in talking to some of the golfers, a lot of people have never set foot on a military base before. Why not build a relationship. A lot of military people love golf and a lot of golfers love the military.”
Jacobs, who works with a bevy of charitable groups including various military and veteran organizations in addition to volunteering for the GAM, said she wanted to help bring awareness to Michigan golfers of the service to our country being performed at Selfridge. She also arranged for the golfers to tour the Selfridge Air Museum on base after golf if they so desired.
GAM Executive Director Chris Whitten was on hand to welcome the golfers. He said the GAM doesn’t have Golf Days with themes on a regular basis.
“It’s usually a day that is just for the enjoyable golf experience of that day and course,” he said. “But thanks to Janina and our Member Relations Committee they came up with this. We’ve wanted to engage and showcase military and veteran causes and this is a great introduction to that for some of our member golfers.”
As at all golf days, prizes were awarded. The results of the fun competition can be found here: gam-selfridgegc2023gammilitarygolfday.golfgenius.com
Check out the photo gallery too.