2016 Tee It Up for the Troops – Rochester, MN
by Chelsea Cliff
September 1, 2016
Photography credit: Mike Pruett
Picture over 600 American flags lining the fairway, representing freedom and so much more. This past Thursday, at the 10th Annual Tee It Up for the Troops event in Rochester, MN, the Willow Creek Golf Course was adorned with red, white, blue, and gold.
Tee It Up for the Troops is a national organization committed to honoring and supporting military service members, their families, and veterans through golf fundraisers. Seven of the 35 annual events the organization hosts are held right here in Minnesota. Lynn Clarey, Vice President of Business Development at Sterling State Bank helps coordinate the planning and implementation of Rochester’s annual event. Lynn, along with 9 other Tee It Up for the Troops - Rochester committee members, works tirelessly all year long planning every aspect of the fundraising tournament. From organizing the schedule to contacting speakers for the event, there’s plenty to do. Thanks to the efforts of Lynn Clarey, the Tee It Up for the Troops – Rochester committee and a host of volunteers from the community, this annual event continues to be a remarkable success.
This year there were buttons created featuring photographs of fallen soldiers, pinned to a red, white, and blue ribbon. “We asked all of the golfers to pin these to their golf bags during the day and it was a powerful thing to see – everyone honoring our fallen heroes,” stated Lynn, describing one of the highlights from this year’s event. He also described a moving opening ceremony honoring Gold Star Families – the families of the fallen soldiers. This year’s speaker at the opening ceremony was General Major Rick Nash.
Each year at the event a handful of fallen soldiers from the Southeastern Minnesota area are remembered, and their families honored.
Lynn described how moving it was to see the entire first fairway lined with flags and having a soldier stationed on each golf hole throughout the tournament. This year there was also a unique contest happening at hole #2 where Bobby Bradley – a well-known long drive specialist - was stationed. Each golfer was given two strokes to put the ball into the cup, with Bobby making the initial drive. If the golfers chose to donate money to Tee It Up for the Troops at the hole, they then had the chance to win a trip to Pebble Beach in California if they made the double eagle shot.
Unfortunately, no one made the shot, although one golfer came close – with the ball bouncing off of the flag post. Throughout the day there was a variety of events, beginning with the opening ceremony at noon. Due to unexpected air craft issues, there was a last minute cancellation for Navy Seals that were planned to parachute in prior to the ceremony. Lynn is hopeful that they can make this exciting entrance happen next year.
Later after the golfers finished their rounds there was a Social Hour at 5:30 pm with a live and silent auction, raffles and then dinner and speaker Mike McEllhiney. Mike is a retired Master Sergeant, Chief of Staff, Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs and a former Green Beret.
Lynn is very happy with how the event turned out. He describes the day’s efforts, “as a great way to see our community coming together. There were kids from MN Adult & Teen Challenge, Mayo High School, Century High School, John Marshall High School, and Lourdes High School that all worked together to prepare, deliver, and put up all of those flags lining the fairway. Plus, the goody bags put together by the MN School of Business were great to hand out, they created the buttons for honoring the fallen soldiers. It’s not often you see so many different people come together for one event in such a remarkable way.”
Lynn also said the event fills up fast with sponsors and there were 300 to 400 people in attendance at the opening ceremony. This year’s event raised over $50,000, with a grand total of more than $500,00 raised over the last ten years at the Rochester event, reported by KAAL-TV. The national organization of Tee It Up for the Troops has donated over $6 million to 300 veterans support organizations. Their mission statement is to honor, remember, respect, and support all those who serve(d) in the armed forces for this great nation and they have been doing so ever since Tee It Up for the Troops was founded in 2005.
If you are interested in learning more or donating to the cause just visit http://www.teeitupforthetroops.org/. Plus, there are more events happening in September – if you are interested in volunteering, participating, or attending. Just search for your area here.
Our men and women in uniform stand for more than freedom, their service also represents sacrifice and honor. Through this organization, their memories live on and Sterling State Bank is proud to be a part of this community event each year.
Update: Tee It Up for the Troops was recognized as a top-tier veteran service organization by Fisher House in their Fall 2016 edition of their publication, The Patriot.
Photography credit: Mike Pruett