Jan. 6, 2014
LITCHFIELD, Ariz. – Army junior Robby Hill recently represented the U.S. Military Academy at one of the premier amateur golf events in the nation, participating in the Patriot All-America Invitational. The 54-hole event is played at the Wigwam Gold Course.
The field of 84 players, comprised of current NCAA Division I, Division II and Division III, NAIA, NJCAA All-Americans, as well as AJGA All-Americans currently competing as freshmen, and invited players from Army, Navy and Air Force, is just one of the tournament’s special characteristics. The Patriot All-America is played to help support the Folds of Honor Foundation, a charity that, “salutes the sacrifice of fallen and disabled service members by ensuring their families are not left behind.” The organization identifies a fallen warrior from each of the invited players’ school or hometown to be honored, and that player carries a golf bag, donated by PING, embroidered with the warrior’s name.
Hill carried the bag of 2nd Lt. Emily Perez, a 2005 West Point graduate and member of the track & field team who made the ultimate sacrifice on Sept. 12, 2006. Perez, who was posthumously awarded the NCAA Award of Valor in 2008, not only set records on the track, but also served as the Brigade Command Sergeant Major during her final year at West Point. A member of the Medical Services Corps, 2nd Lt. Perez was killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom when a makeshift bomb exploded near her Humvee during combat operations as she led her platoon in a convoy. She was serving with the 204th Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas, and was laid to rest at West Point cemetery.
“We do cemetery tours once a year, and her parents were actually up here (West Point) to talk about her life last year,” Hill explained about honoring Perez. “I had already learned about her so when I found out I would be honoring her, I was excited to do it.”
Hill and his fellow service academy competitors, including Air Force’s Kyle Westmoreland who won the event with a birdie on the sixth playoff hole, also received the honor of hitting the first shots off the driving range following the tournament’s opening ceremony that included a military flyover.
“It means a lot to have played,” Hill said. “It was a great experience. It was a bigger deal than I’d ever imagined. It was an honor to represent something way bigger than golf.”
Hill finished in 71st place, carding a 20-over par 230 over the 54 holes.
“It’s always fun to play with guys of that caliber,” he said. “Our season ended in early November and I took about a month and a half off from golf so it was tough only having two days to practice and try to compete at that level, but it was a lot of fun and a really good experience.”
Army has had a player compete in the tournament every year of its three-year existence.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for our service academies to be involved and represent members of their respective institution who have given theultimate sacrifice for freedom,” Army head coach Brian Watts said. :The Folds of Honor has made this collegiate tournament into one of the top amateur events in the country. It is so special for us to have a cadet represent West Point in a tournament that honors our country’s heroes and allows them to connect with families of the
soldiers. We would like to thank the Folds of Honor and all of the tournament volunteers who have helped make this tournament a huge success.”
The Army coaching staff selected Hill, the team’s captain, to represent the Black Knights at this year’s tournament.
“Robby deserved this opportunity,” Watts explained. “Not only is he a team captain, but he is an outstanding cadet.”
The Black Knights open the spring portion of their schedule on Feb. 16 at the Gary Freeman Invitational in Daytona, Fla. Army will host the Patriot League Championship at the West Point Golf Course April 26-27.