Soldiers Honored by TPC

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Lt. Jesse White spent the last year telling stories about playing golf in Iraq. Now he has one to take back.
 
White was one of five Army soldiers honored Thursday at the Tournament Players Club after they created a golf course in Iraq and dubbed it TPC Mosul.
 
Gov. Jeb Bush and professional golfers Jim Furyk, Fred Funk and Frank Lickliter surprised the soldiers during the ceremony.
 
'It was awesome, just awesome,' said Maj. Spencer Smith, of Sterling, Va.
 
The soldiers and their families have spent the week at the TPC at Sawgrass as guests of the resort, playing a course much different than the one they constructed at the 101st Airborne's base near Mosul, Iraq.
 
White, from White Church, Tenn., carried three golf clubs with him when he was deployed to Iraq and created a three-hole course at the base. The course, set on hard ground in the desert, was later expanded to six holes.
 
The fairways and green are desert of course, and the only water hazard is an outhouse. To play nine holes, soldiers play the first six and then the first three again. White owns the nine-hole course record with a 31.
 
After several rounds, White and the others dubbed the course the TPC Mosul. When PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem heard about it last September, his staff adopted the battalion, sending e-mails, care packages, 1,300 pounds of food, plus clubs and hundreds of balls.
 
'We were so flattered Lt. White thought to name his course after ours that we had official 'TPC of Mosul' hats made and sent them to the soldier and his battalion,' Finchem said. 'We are honored to have Lt. White and his foursome here at Sawgrass for the week. It is our way of showing our appreciation for their service to our nation and to golf.'
 
Also honored were: Capt. Kate Blaise, of Macon, Mo.; Maj. Kirk Whitson, Rolla, Mo.; and Lt. Col. Jeff Kelley, of Signal Mountain, Tenn. All five soldiers are stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky.
 
'We are so proud of all of you. We are so proud of our military,' Bush said.
 
The PGA Tour's production department created a video showing the soldiers in Iraq, and even a few scenes of them playing at the TPC Mosul.
 
The video also highlighted some of their worst shots at the TPC Sawgrass, including shots from deep sand traps and thick rough and several balls dunked at the famed No. 17 island green.
 
White and the others returned home in February and expect to return to Iraq - and hopefully the TPC Mosul - in 2005.
 
Each of the soldiers was given TPC Mosul golf shirts and golf bags with three clubs. Blaise, a new golfer, was given a full set of clubs. They also received a framed picture of President Bush wearing a TPC Mosul golf hat.
 
In return, the soldiers gave Finchem a set of clubs with the 'Screaming Eagle' logo of the 101st Airborne on them.
 
'I don't know if I can play with clubs with screaming eagles,' Finchem said.
 
'It's better than a screaming bogey,' someone yelled from the crowd.
 
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