NORTH PORT, Fla. – Fourth-year Symetra Tour player AJ Newell is a history aficionado, using her tournament travels to visit and view World War II historical sites. This week’s inaugural SKYiGOLF Championship at Charlotte Harbor National at Bobcat Trail has a distinct military connection – the tournament’s charity benefactor is Folds of Honor, which provides scholarships to the children and spouses of fallen and wounded military members. Newell is determined to do whatever she can to help.
Newell is pledging $10 for every birdie she makes this week and $25 for every eagle toward the Folds of Honor’s cause, hoping that other players and fans of the Symetra Tour might step in and match her effort. (People can customize their donations however they’d like; every bit helps a great mission.) SKYiGOLF, title sponsor of the Symetra Tour season-opening event that gets underway on Thursday at Charlotte Harbor National at Bobcat Trail, will donate $25 for every birdie Newell makes and $100 for every eagle to the Folds of Honor.
“When I grew up, my Dad and I drove to every event we could, and when we drove, we listened to audio books,” said Newell, from Tampa, who is playing close to home this week. “I always kind of resisted listening to them with him, but eventually I got pulled in. I was probably 14 or 15, and what we were listening to was “The Corps” by W.E.B. Griffin about the Marine Corps in the Pacific in World War II. I really got into it. It wasn’t just history to me at that point, it was real people who were experiencing these things.
“My dad saw that I was starting to fall in love with learning about history. We went on the USS Midway when we were in San Diego; we went to Parris Island (in South Carolina). I really started to respect the servicemen and women who have done so much to protect our country. I wouldn’t be able to do my job if it wasn’t for them. By the time I was 18, we’d seen a couple of places, we’d been on a couple of battleships and a couple of aircraft carriers. I even have a U.S. Marine Corps ballmarker that I only use in tournaments.”
Newell, 25, first learned about the Folds of Honor during her final spring at the University of Tennessee. On Memorial Day 2015, during the final round of the NCAA Championship played at The Concession in Bradenton, Fla. – just north on I-75 from where Newell will compete beginning Thursday – players were announced on the first tee and told they would be playing that round for a fallen soldier. Newell played in honor of Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John David House of California, who’d been killed with 30 Marines on Feb. 6, 2005, when the helicopter transporting them in Western Iraq crashed in Rutbah. House was 28. He never got to meet his son, James, who’d been born on Christmas Eve back home in the States.
“I remember writing his name on my scorecard,” Newell said, “and I remember thinking, ‘You know what? You’re playing for something greater than yourself today.’ It was really special to learn about the organization and see how the Folds of Honor is helping families.”
Those wishing to follow Newell’s play this week at the SKYiGOLF Championship may do so at SymetraTour.com, and those wishing to match her donation, or donate on their own, can visit FoldsOfHonor.org. In November, SKYiGOLF donated $55,000 to the Folds from one of its first two SKYiGOLF facilities, Charlotte Harbor National.
SKYiGOLF is dedicated to making golf more fun, offering $10,000 for holes-in-one on designated holes at SKYiGOLF facilities and operating a Global Golf Scramble, while at the same time helping PGA Professionals and course operators to increase their efficiency and revenues. For more information, contact Chief Communications Officer Jeff Babineau, (407) 496-4956 or [email protected]