On Memorial Day, I attended the annual Folds of Honor Patriot Cup Golf Tournament at The Patriot Golf Club in Owasso and had the opportunity to interview a few of the participants who come from all over the country to support such a good cause. Many celebrities from country music, comedians, and professional golfers join with those who have donated hundreds of dollars to help fund scholarships for military family members.
First I chatted with pro golfer Hale Irwin, who said he has played in the tournament several times because he believes in what Folds of Honor is doing.
“I’ve been here in the past and it’s a wonderful event,” he said. “Major Dan (Rooney) does such a good job, the Folds of Honor people are fantastic, the whole thing is just wonderfully done.”
Irwin said playing in the Folds of Honor event has really become like a big family for him.
“The relationships are great, knowing Dan and knowing some of the people that we’ve met through the years, some of the tour players’ daughters have worked here, it’s just a big family that you come back to see every year,” he said. “But, to me it’s the cause. It’s taking care of those kids of the fallen, that is so important. Those of us who have had children know what that’s about.”
Tom Lehman and Loren Roberts both have daughters who have worked at the Folds of Honor office in Owasso.
The Patriot Golf Course is the handiwork of famed golf course designer, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Irwin said he enjoys playing such a gem in Oklahoma.
“When you drive in here, you’re reminded that you’re in a little bit of paradise,” he said. “You have the hills, you have the openness, you have the people. It’s always the people that make things, and I think Bob did a great job of designing the golf course, it’s a beautiful golf course we all enjoy playing.”
One of the celebrities I chatted with was none other than Larry “The Cable Guy.” He told me why this event was so important to him.
“This is just a great charity,” Larry said. “When you get up and watch those kids talking about going through college, and how their dad lost his life in the military, and Folds of Honor put them through school, and changed their lives, I mean if that doesn’t make you tear up, you’re not a human.”
Not only is it a great charity but Larry said he has fun coming back each year.
“It’s fun to come down and be a part of it, and be able to contribute to it,” he said. “Out of all the charity events I do, this is definitely one at the top of the heap, right here.”
Larry said he first got interested in Folds of Honor when he met Major Dan several years ago.
“I met him a couple times just in passing, you know, and then I came out here to play golf one time and Danny was out here and mentioned this, and I said I’d love to play in it, so that’s pretty much how it happened,” Larry said.
I asked Larry what his connection is with Northeast Oklahoma, as he’s been here several times, not just for golf but to appear on stage with his stand-up routine at several area venues.
“My best friend Marty Hill lives in South Coffeyville, Oklahoma, my buddy Jimmy Folk runs the stockyard up there, and I go up there every now and then; I love Oklahoma,” he said. “Of course, I’m from Nebraska, so Nebraska and Oklahoma – we’ve got a great past. We only hate each other one day a year, but other than that, that’s about it. So I’ve got a lot of friends here and I love coming down here.”
He was referring to the past rivalry between OU and Nebraska, mostly in football, when the two played in the Big Eight, however, now they no longer play in the same conference.
“Well you know, we raised a nation of socialist-communists and they get rid of all of our traditions, and Nebraska – Oklahoma was one of them. So, whoever thought of that idea ought to be tarred and feathered.”
Well, if that didn’t sound enough like Larry “The Cable Guy” he closed our conversation with;
“It was really cool when I got here, Major Dan presented me with the key to the 24-hour fitness, so I was excited”
Next up, I spoke with the man whose vision became a beautiful golf course in Owasso.
“First of all, it’s a team effort,” said Robert Trent Jones, Jr. “I have good teammates who help me do this work, especially the unsung heroes – the shapers – who shape it, but most of all, my teammate here was Dan Rooney.”
Jones said he and Rooney formed a bond almost immediately, and he joked that they’ve both been in harm’s way; Rooney as a fighter pilot, Jones as a course designer in a communist country.
“Major Dan and I hit it off at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills, and we got to talking and found out he and I share a lot of patriotic values, and he was living them,” Jones said. “I had worked on the first golf course in the Soviet Union, in Moscow, so we had been in harm’s way from time to time. He in a much more dangerous way than me, but we hit it off.”
At first, Rooney wanted to build the golf course in an area more conducive to building houses around it, but when they flew over the land, Jones had another idea.
“We got up in a helicopter, and I looked down and said, what’s that land over there?” Jones said. “Well that’s not good for housing [Rooney replied]. I said, well that’s why we want it. So, that’s why we have some holes down deep in the valleys, and I think it gives it a special character. It’s unique in Oklahoma, and it reminds us all of the three dimensions of our flag, like the three colors; red, white and blue, and I think it’s all interwoven in an artistic and sporting sense.”