RANCHO SANTA FE — The second time was a charm for Tony Perez.
The golf tournament he started in 2010 to raise funds for Operation Game On, a golf rehabilitation program for combat-injured troops, sold out this year, with 144 players hitting the links Aug. 15 at Morgan Run Club & Resort.
The day started at 9 a.m. with check-in, driving range practice and a putting contest. Just before the 11 a.m. shotgun start, retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Jacque Keeslar, who lost both legs while on a mission in Iraq in 2006, recited the Pledge of Allegiance and soprano Barbara Tobler sang the national anthem.
“Thank you all for your service,” Tobler said to the troops after her performance.
Perez wrapped up the opening ceremonies with a tribute to TaylorMade Golf Company “in appreciation for taking care of our troops,” he said.
The Carlsbad-based company donated $50,000 to equip the soldiers with custom-fitted clubs, bags, Adidas shoes, gloves and balls.
The day ended with cocktails, a dinner buffet, raffle drawings that included restaurant gift certificates and golf packages, and an award ceremony for contests such as closest to the pin and hole in one.
The cost was $300 per player. Sponsorship opportunities were also available, including $1,000 that allowed four active-duty military members to play.
Created in 2008, Operation Game On is available to soldiers returning from Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom who are severely physically and mentally injured and going through rehabilitation at Naval Medical Center San Diego.
Participating troops receive 10 one-hour golf lessons from PGA-certified instructors followed by a professional fitting session by Jim Flick and the staff at The Kingdom at TaylorMade Golf.
There is no cost to the soldiers, hospital or military.
Doctors, prosthetic specialists and counselors at the Naval Medical Center found that golf has become an essential link to the rehabilitation process for combat-wounded military personnel with extreme physical and mental disabilities.
“They’re so young,” Perez said. “And to see them just being able to walk, to swing — this is a lot more than just teaching golf. We’re giving these kids an opportunity to gain their confidence and get back into society.”