The two-time Masters champion comes to The Club at Ravenna in support of the Infinite Hero Foundation
He’s been called the first genuine folk hero since John Daly, a Florida Panhandler who never took a formal golf lesson yet has twice won the sport’s most prestigious tournament. Pay no mind to how those green jackets would clash with the shirtless overalls he sported as a “Golf Boy.” Never meanin’ no harm, he actually bought a signed, original Dukes of Hazzard “General Lee”—complete with the stars and bars—and last year in Phoenix he hovercrafted above fairways, sand and water and all over the internet. He’s a teetotaling Christian husband and father of two adopted children who hits a pink driver 330 yards and tweets to 1.5 million followers. Like Jack, Phil, Rory and Tiger, he’s identified by one name: Bubba.
What’s not to like? Well, there are cynics who question whether Bubba Watson is less of a good ol’ boy and more of a good ol’ brand. But whatever your feelings about his authenticity, he comes by his affection and respect for our military men and women honestly. They’re hardwired into his DNA.
Those feelings no doubt stem from his growing up in Bagdad—Florida, that is—where his late father, a Green Beret and Vietnam veteran, taught his 6-year-old son how to play the game that would change his life.
We saw Bubba wear his emotions on his short-sleeve at the 2011 U.S. Open, when he played in camouflage pants, a star-spangled-belt-buckle and an army green shirt in support of military outreach. We also saw him form, with his wife Angie, the Bubba Watson Foundation, which emphasizes helping “the physical, spiritual, and social development of children, young adults and those associated with the U.S. Military.”
And on July 27, 88 lucky golfers will get to see Bubba’s commitment in full swing at The Club at Ravenna in Littleton. The longest hitter on the PGA Tour will join Medal of Honor Recipient Salvatore Giunta as the guests of honor at the 2nd Annual Ravenna Invitational Supporting Infinite Hero Foundation.
Bubba will do an exhibition for all in attendance before the 11 a.m. shotgun start. He’ll then play six holes each with three foursomes that have each paid $25,000 for the privilege (at press time, one remained available). After golf, he, Giunta and the event’s co-chairman, former Army paratrooper and Ravenna club member Neil Duncan, will hold a “fireside chat” that promises to be more inspiring than watching Bubba drive Ravenna’s 369-yard opening hole.
In 2010, Giunta, a former United States Army sergeant now living in Fort Collins, became the first living person since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest decoration for valor. During a lethal October 25, 2007 ambush in Afghanistan, Giunta saved the lives of numerous squad members. His well-received memoir, Living with Honor, rates as one of the most raw and compelling accounts written about the longest war in U.S. history.
Duncan has an equally inspiring story. In 2005, while serving in Afghanistan in the same 173rd airborne unit as Giunta, he lost both of his legs in an IED explosion. With the help of intense rehabilitation and prosthetics, Duncan has summited the tallest peaks on three continents—Aconcagua (South America), Kilimanjaro (Africa) and Denali (North America)—and plays golf at Ravenna. “Golf is a great sport for rehab,” he says. “It’s peaceful and it involves a lot of critical aspects of core strength, balance and traversing difficult terrain.”
An MBA from the University of Denver, Duncan is also one of 10 members on the grant committee for the event’s beneficiary, the Infinite Hero Foundation. With Oakley, Inc., as its founding corporate partner, the three-year-old foundation has already granted $2 million to companies and programs that drive innovation, accessibility and effective treatments for military heroes and families struggling with service-related mental and physical injuries. Three of the 10 recipients thus far are the rehabilitative Vail Veterans Program, Rebuilding America’s Warriors (R.A.W.) and the Airpower Foundation, which created the Ekso Bionics exoskeleton worn last year by paralyzed fighter pilot Gary Linfoot at Ravenna’s inaugural Infinite Hero Invitational.
“To watch him rise up from the chair, stand up and walk was such a moving experience for everyone,” remembers Ravenna Managing Partner Kevin Collins. “He never thought he would be able to see anyone eye-to-eye again.”
With his father, father-in-law and son all Marines, Collins has a special connection to the military. “We cannot support our veterans enough for their service and sacrifice to our country,” he says. “Due to the importance of the cause and its initial success (last year’s event, which came together in less than two months and featured keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, raised almost $100,000) we are committed to making this The Club at Ravenna’s flagship charity event.”
Collins can also take pride in having a flagship club at which to hold it. After surviving the recession, the club has experienced a renaissance at its 634-acre property near Waterton Canyon. Subtle massaging to a number of holes have made the eye-popping Jay Morrish-designed golf course more playable than ever, and sales on the membership and luxury real estate fronts have been brisk.
“We are honored to have the support of likeminded partners like The Club at Ravenna and Bubba Watson to help continue our progress and commitment to driving change and long term solutions to improve the lives of veterans across America,” says Oakley CEO Colin Baden, who founded Infinite Hero after becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of resources available to help returning military personnel.
Oakley’s commitment is more than just good publicity. In addition to outfitting golfers like Bubba, the Southern California-headquartered company has for decades operated an innovative, forward-thinking tactical division. Working with Special Operations forces and other military personnel, Oakley has developed numerous technologies and products to improve the safety, performance and comfort of the gear worn by the men and women whose lives depend on it.
To raise awareness and funding for Infinite Hero, Oakley has created special-edition products bearing the foundation’s purple emblem. And thanks to a generous donation from NHRA super-sponsor Terry Chandler, racing fans can also see the emblem throughout the 2015 Mello Yello Drag Racing season on the Infinite Hero 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger driven by “Fast Jack” Beckman. On each pass down the track, the retired Air Force sergeant carries an Infinite Hero Foundation challenge coin, which he then signs with the track location and speed of the pass. For a $100 donation, fans can purchase one in his pit area or at the Oakley trailer.
Coincidentally, on Sunday, July 26, the day before Ravenna’s 2nd Annual Infinite Hero Invitational, Beckman will be racing just 16 miles north (about four minutes at 320 mph) at Bandimere Speedway in the 36th Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals. He and his Infinite Hero funny car will appear at Ravenna the following day.
So will Bubba Watson. After all, the “General Lee” is a Dodge Charger, too. Seriously, though, as Kevin Collins says, “It’s pretty exciting to have someone of Bubba’s caliber come to Ravenna. He has made time in his schedule. His support and interest levels in supporting this cause and event have been extremely positive.”
2ND ANNUAL RAVENNA INVITATIONAL
SUPPORTING INFINITE HERO FOUNDATION
DATE & TIME: July 27, 2015 at 11:00 A.M.
WHERE: The Club at Ravenna
11118 Caretaker Rd, Littleton
COST: $5,000 per foursome
(All money goes to the Infinite Hero Foundation,
a 501[c] charitable organization).
CONTACT: Anna Fine: 720-956-1600; [email protected]