U.S. Armed Forces show out on third day of Korn Ferry Tour’s Club Car Championship

Mike Brown, Special for the Savannah Morning News
·5 min read

One of the safest spots to be found Saturday was at the Club Car Championship at The Landings Club.

It was Military Appreciation Day and there was enough hardware and personnel on hand at the Deer Creek Course to handle literally any situation which may have arisen.

The U.S. Army had a strong force on hand and the Coast Guard also was represented on the third day of the Korn Ferry Tour event. The Army troops and equipment were from the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart and the Coast Guard was from the detachment stationed at Hunter Army Air Field.

It marked the return of the military presence to the golf tournament after having missed last year’s event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone involved was happy to be on the grounds.

The troops enjoyed meeting with civilians and explaining their particular equipment and how it is deployed in the service of our country. The civilians, especially younger spectators, got a delight in seeing the impressive arsenal on display.

The first vehicle visible when entering the grounds was perhaps, other than possibly a Chinook helicopter, the most impressive sight of the day.

Parked across from the cart corral and near the parking areas for volunteers, caddies, VIPs and media was an Assault Breacher Vehicle. Sgt. Joseph Welch was more than happy to explain the vehicle’s details and how it is used.

“The main purpose of the vehicle is to clear a pathway for troops and vehicles through areas which may include mine fields, roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices,” Welch said. “For our job as combat engineers, this is the whole package.

“It makes our job safer,” Welch said. “I don’t know any other vehicle I would be safer in due to the amount of armor.”

Samantha Balmes waves from a Chinook helicopter during Military Appreciation Day at the Club Car Championship at The Landings Club on Saturday, March 27, 2021. (Philip Hall/Savannah Morning News)

The two-man vehicle — it has a driver and a vehicle commander — weighs an incredible 55 tons and is full tracked. Due to its armor plating, it is practically impossible for normal enemy fire to penetrate and it can sustain three to five mine blasts.

The vehicle, Welch said, was fielded in 2005 and first used in combat in 2019 by the Marine Corps.

This the first Club Car Championship for Welch, a native of Crawfordsville, Florida, who has been in the Army for six years.

“I’ve been at Fort Stewart for about a year,” Welch said. “This is my first time at the tournament and we’ve had a good number of people wanting to know about the vehicle. We appreciate that very much and it has been a pleasure to explain what it’s about.”

If a 55-ton road hugging vehicle is not to your taste, Coast Guard Lt. JG Nate Gallagher was happy to show fans how they could cover ground quickly through the air.

Gallagher’s job, however, does not call for transporting troops but rather those who have found themselves in a jam and were rescued by the Coast Guard.

“Our primary mission is search and rescue,” said Gallagher who has been in the military for 11 years, the last two in the Coast Guard. “What we have here today is an MH65 Dolphin helicopter.

“I was in the Army for nine and a half years,” Gallagher said. “I moved over to the Coast Guard two years ago. I wanted to join the Coast Guard initially but I couldn’t come in as a helicopter pilot. The Army had a program where I could.”

A native of Pelham, Tennessee, Gallagher explained the local Coast Guard detachment stationed at Hunter can be responsible for a territory extending from the North Carolina-South Carolina line to Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The Coast Guard, incidentally, does not come under the auspices of the Department of Defense but rather is part of Homeland Security.

“We have one 24/7 crew at Hunter and one that goes up to Charleston, South Carolina,” Gallagher explained. “We’re on duty at all times.

“If there’s a capsizing in North Myrtle Beach or one at Cape Canaveral and they need us, we’ll go. We fly around 250 missions a year” (from Hunter).

Children pose for pictures on a helicopter during Military Appreciation Day at the Club Car Championship at The Landings Club on Saturday, March 27, 2021. (Philip Hall/Savannah Morning News

Gallagher welcomed the opportunity to be on hand Saturday after missing last October’s tournament.

“This is a great opportunity for us to come out and talk to people and show them what we do,” Gallagher said. “A lot of people don’t know we’re actually stationed here in Savannah and don’t know much about what we do.”

There were also at least two players in the tournament field who have a military connection.

Tom Whitney, who did not make the cut, is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy who turned to pro golf after five years in the Air Force as a nuclear missiles officer. He is in his second year on the Korn Ferry Tour.

Brent Grant, who is playing this weekend, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, where his father, who was a career man in the Navy, was stationed. Grant was at 7-under par and tied for 30th place going into Sunday’s final round.