29th Annual National Retired Military Golf Classic honors vets this weekend

For the fifth consecutive year, the Long Bay community offers a special “thank you” to veterans, with a flag-decorated fairway, plenty to eat and a standing ovation.

When the retired military veterans playing at Long Bay Club on Friday, June 1, 2012, reach the 14th tee they are certain to hear words that many have never heard before.  The residents of the Long Bay community will congregate behind Jim and Theresa Watson’s home to share one message: Thank you. And the community adds to its message by painting a big American flag in the fairway and offering breakfast and lunch to the golfers on the 376-yard par 4 throughout the day.
 
In it's 29th year, the Annual National Retired Military Golf Classic, which runs through Saturday, June 2, is the largest and longest-running golf event for retired military in the world. The men’s competition uses three Myrtle Beach National courses and Long Bay Club, while the women’s competition is being conducted at Aberdeen Country Club.  National Golf Management operates all five courses.
 
“It’s our way of saying thank you to our veterans for their service,” said Jim Watson, a real estate appraiser who started the tradition five years ago. “I knew we were doing something good when a veteran in our first year broke down and said, ‘I fought in the Vietnam War and no one has ever said thank you until now.’ It’s an emotional day.
 
“Once you see it, you are hooked,” continued Watson. “We will do this until we die. All the veterans feel special for 15 minutes and that’s nice.”
 
The fairway is decorated with a 40’x22’ American flag that is painted on three days in advance, using 12 gallons of red, white and blue paint. And when each of the 62 groups reaches its best drive in the captain’s choice (scramble) format, roughly 175 residents are waiting on the left side of the hole to give them a loud round of applause and offer refreshments and something to eat.
 
“Not too many groups go through with a dry eye,” said Jim Watson.
 
In addition to saying thank you, the community raised roughly $2,000 last year for veterans programs.
 
The tournament consists of 72 holes (four rounds) for men and 54 holes (three rounds) for women.  All participants must have a USGA handicap index and show a Military ID at registration.  The field was capped at 880 men and 128 women.

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