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Golfers, Greenbrier honor military at the Classic

Classic draws families to West Virginia

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- A grin spreads across the face of Pfc. Caleb Arthur as he describes his weekend at the Greenbrier Classic.

The 21-year-old Army National Guardsman met Bubba Watson on Friday.

"He signed a golf ball for me," Arthur, of Dunbar, said. "It was really a great moment in my life."

Arthur is one of the servicemen who are helping in a unique way at this year's Greenbrier Classic. Arthur served as an honor guard of sorts for the American flag at the 18th green. The 18th hole was the only hole marked with an American flag, rather than the traditional yellow.

As players approached the last green, their caddies removed the American flag from the hole and brought it to the servicemen, who saluted. The servicemen held the flag while standing at parade rest as the golfers putted. The servicemen then saluted the flag once more as it was returned to the hole. Players shook hands with the servicemen after their last putts.

"I met Sean Payton, and that was really cool," Arthur said of the New Orleans Saints coach who caddied for his friend, Ryan Palmer.

"Yesterday, [Virginia Tech football coach] Frank Beamer came through and I got to meet him," Arthur said. "Phil Mickelson, I shook his hand yesterday. It's been a tremendous opportunity and the Lord's blessed me in so many ways. It's been great. I'm just so humbled to be here."

Arthur stood at the 18th green from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday before another serviceman took over his post.

"They explained it to me very briefly as soon as we got here," Arthur said. "That we would have to be on the 18th green, saluting the flag in front of all the players and people that are here. It was really exciting and it's a great honor to be doing this."

This is the second year that the Greenbrier Classic has had members of the West Virginia Army National Guard tend the flag on the 18th hole.

"For us, over the Fourth of July, for the Greenbrier Classic to be able to publicly show appreciation to our servicemen and women, that's just one opportunity for us to be able to highlight and show them publicly our appreciation," said Monte Ortel, executive tour director for the Classic.

Typically, two Guardsmen tend the flag during the morning and two more in the evening over the four-day event, Ortel said.

The Classic also has other ways of honoring military service members and veterans. The event has partnered with Hertz for a program that contributed $13,920 to the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Ortel said.

Retired and active-duty service members get free tickets to the tournament, as well as upgraded food and beverage options and other perks, Ortel said.

"That's just another thing that the tournament's able to provide our servicemen and women," Ortel said.

Arthur, originally of Poca, is a full-time education student who also works at Kroger. He lives in Dunbar and has been a Guardsman since April 2012.

Other service members turned down the opportunity to attend the tournament, Arthur said. They didn't want to spend the whole week here.

"I was very fortunate to be able to use my time wisely and be away from my family and sacrifice a little bit of my time to be here and be a part of it," Arthur said.

He will get some return on that investment, though. He's a golfer himself, and watching the professional golfers at his first PGA tournament will help improve his own game, he said.

"The thing I'm going to probably take most [from] my experience here is the way that they're so calm and they take their time, they don't overthink it a lot, " he said. "I like the way they carry themselves. They're just really composed out there."

Reach Lori Kersey at 304-348-1240 or lori.kersey@wvgazette.com


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