Highlight: Speech by Folds of Honor founder and PGA Professional
The PGA Golf Management program at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs recently celebrated a major milestone with a Major speech.
At an October 20 gala at The Pinery at the Hill—a stunning new event facility in downtown Colorado Springs—The PGA Management program commemorated its 10 years of operation. With numerous faculty, PGA professionals, program alumni and current students in attendance, the occasion featured numerous speeches, highlighted by the inspiring words of PGA Professional, F-16 pilot, and Folds of Honor Foundation founder Major Dan Rooney.
Before Rooney took the stage, however, the PGA Golf Management program honored one of its founding fathers, Dr. Paul Miller, who will be retiring at the end of this year. Miller, a professor of accounting who has been at UCCS since 1988, has served an academic advisor and mentor to the students of the PGA Golf Management program.
Miller credited many people from both the college as well as the Colorado golf industry with the success of the program. Yet, it was Miller’s dream and vision that sparked what has now become one of the most successful programs in the country. “When you have a group like this as well as a night like this, it’s a dream come true,” he said. “I have really come to understand that it [the program] was more a vision of something that could become and now indeed has become what I had hoped it to be.”
The PGA Golf Management program is part of UCCS’ College of Business, whose dean, Venkat Reddy, has supported the program’s success since its inception. “If we look back at the past ten years and see how much has changed; how many relationships have been built, how many partnerships have taken place, this is just a wonderful day for all of us,” he stated.
The evening’s highpoint came when Rooney took the stage and immediately commanded the attention of the audience in his military green flight suit and his genuine knack for storytelling.
“You aren’t going to look back on your life and think about all the tournaments you won or the money in your bank account,” he said. “Instead you’re going to think about the time God gave you on this earth, the unique talents you were blessed with, and how you used both those things to make a positive impact in the world around you.”
He should know. He has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on multiple fronts.
A PGA Professional who has done multiple tours of duty as fighter pilot, Rooney founded and runs The Folds of Honor Foundation, an organization that ensures spouses of fallen soldiers are financially stable and their children receive an education.
Folds of Honor Foundation
Rooney established the foundation after being on a commercial flight that carried the remains of Corporal Brock Bucklin. Out of respect, the pilot requested all passengers wait until Corporal Bucklin’s remains were taken off the plane.
“More than half the plane was empty right after the pilot made that announcement,” Rooney recounted. “That was the moment I knew I had a higher calling from God. Those people that left may have somewhere they need to go, but Corporal Bucklin along with many others killed in combat, have nowhere.”
Starting Folds of Honor in 2007, Rooney pledged to take care of the families of veterans like Corporal Bucklin. He did it through golf and Patriot Golf Day. Every Labor Day weekend since 2007, Folds of Honor asks golfers to add a dollar to their green fees. “In the first year, we had over 3,300 golf courses sign up willing to host a tournament and donate the proceeds to the cause,” he stated. “We raised over $1 million and over the last six years have raised over $22 million.”
Adding to that total is the award-winning Patriot Golf Club, which he founded, owns and operates in his home state of Oklahoma. It serves as headquarters to the Folds of Honor Foundation and to The Patriot Cup featuring PGA Touring Professionals, players from all branches of the military, and supporters of the Folds of Honor.
Rooney closed his emotional speech with a call to be passionate about your calling. “Everybody in here has a fire burning in their soul,” he said. “Don’t let the ‘experts’ instill fear into you. Instead, have the courage and the resistance to obstacles in your life to let your dreams take flight.”
In her closing remarks, Program Director Mollie Sutherland pledged to continue instilling the PGA Core Values into the students throughout the 4.5 year journey to PGA Membership. All graduates of the PGA Golf Management Program have earned an accredited Business Degree, completed 16 months of internship and passed PGA Exams
She also recalled a quote from her predecessor, Ed Kelbel, a beloved mentor who passed away unexpectedly in spring of 2012: “As Ed Kelbel said, ‘A job begun is only half done.’ And Ed, we are only half done and have just begun.”