“I got a fist bump from Bubba!” my oldest son, Declan, said excitedly to his father as he burst through the door. “It was so cool!”
My daughter, Abigail, came rushing out of her room. “I’m so jealous! But you can see me on the internet at the 17th hole from yesterday!”
The children scampered off to compare their stories as I shared mine with my husband. My 10-year-old son and I had just returned from the Friday round at Augusta National for the Masters. Through Operation Teammate, we — along with two other 10-year-old boys — experienced the very best they had to offer. My daughter had attended the day before.
When Air Force veteran Timothy Montjoy returned from his final deployment in 2012, he and his family started working on Operation Teammate. Four years later, when he retired and settled in Augusta, Ga., the nonprofit was into it’s second year of providing “memorable sporting experiences to military children through impactful athlete interaction.”
“I would have been more relieved to know that my daughter, Bethany, was being encouraged and mentored while I was separated from her by an organization such as Operation Teammate,” Montjoy said. And it’s what motivates him to continue to find opportunities for military children to interact with athletes and experiences things as a family.
Montjoy and Operation Teammate put together events in several locations and have several events involving collegiate football teams. They’re looking forward to forging more partnerships, both with local communities across the country and with more organizations like NASCAR and the NBA.
The Junior Pass Program
For the past two years, Operation Teammate has participated in the Junior Pass Program at Augusta National, which allows 12 military children and four chaperones the opportunity to spend one day each at the tournament.
When our children found out about this opportunity, they were really excited. They began their “golf careers” when stationed at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., and Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., respectively. Both have played in the First Tee programs in Pensacola and in Augusta, and they love watching golf with their dad.
“Gregory does, too!” Abigail added, commenting that her 2-year-old brother likes to golf as well, sometimes even with a soup ladle.
Kids at the Masters
There are some serious benefits to attending the Masters as a child. Here are some of them, in my children’s own words:
“Kids are the only ones who can ask for autographs, but we were so busy watching the golfers, we didn’t really worry about it. We were able to see every hole and sometimes sneak up in front of people because we’re little and they could see over us. And a lot of people in green jackets stopped and talked to us. Green jackets aren’t just for those who have won before, they’re also for members. But it’s kind of secret how you become a member,” said Abigail, age 9.
“Walking the course was fun and so was seeing all the big players. We found a great spot to sit and watch for a little while and then we found a secret spot where the players all walk by. So, we stood there and waited for Bubba Watson to come by. When he did, I said, ‘Hey Bubba,’ and stuck out my first, and he gave me a fist bump. It was awesome,” Declan said.
All Junior Pass patrons were given a lapel pin, badge holder and scavenger hunt booklet. The hunt took them to all the fun places around the course and had them look for specific things. At the end of the day, they were given a commemorative coin with a ball marker in it.
They also tried the egg salad sandwiches and the Georgia peach ice cream sandwiches, though none of them were brave enough to try the pimento cheese sandwiches.
“People say it’s a once in a lifetime experience,” Declan said. “But we’re lucky that we live here and it doesn’t have to be. I’m ready to go back next year.”Read comments