Chris Fearn, Assistant Golf Pro at Dataw Island will for the third year embark on his now-annual Military Golf Marathon, where he hopes to complete at least 150 holes of golf in one day to raise more than $20,000 for veterans.
“These men and women sacrifice so much for this country and the least we can do is — do whatever we can to help in any way,” says Fearn, “Whether that is donating to a good cause or just simply being there for a veteran and telling them ‘Thank you’ for their service and sacrifice.”
Fearn’s passion for helping veterans took root three years ago during his first Veteran’s Day Week at Dataw Island, a community which is home to many veterans and that is supportive of very many more through various projects and events.
“The first Veteran’s Day Tournament that I witnessed at Dataw was one of the greatest things that I have ever been part of. The experience of playing with a disabled veteran is very humbling and it inspired me to want to do more; to help more.”
Hence, the Military Golf Marathon was born. The event raises money in the form of per-hole and performance pledges that Fearn and his fellow staff seek from Dataw Club members as well as the community at large. The first year, Fearn raised $13,500 for the On Course Foundation; last year he raised $19,000 for the Green Beret Foundation, and this year the donation will be made to the Salute Military Golf Foundation. Teeing off at 4:30 am using glow-in-the-dark balls and accompanied by an entourage of Dataw Club members and veterans armed only with flashlights and smiles, Fearn hopes to again get an early start for an extended day of fundraising.
In year one, some donors were a bit sticker-shocked when Fearn played more than 100 holes, but they all honored their pledges. In the second year, although donors wised up to Fearn’s amazing endurance, rain plagued the day and required “cart path only” access to most holes. Despite sprinting back and forth from the cart to take his next shot, Fearn managed to play a staggering 156 holes.
“I get tired about three-quarters of the way through the day, but at that time the wounded veterans that come for the event really support me,” Fearn says. “Being with them through the finish gives me all the motivation I need to keep going.”
Fearn has also been honored for two years running to coach the American team in the Simpson Cup, an annual Ryder Cup-style tournament between teams of 12 injured servicemen and veterans from the USA and their British counterparts. All competitors involved in the Simpson Cup are members of the On Course Foundation – an organization that supports the recovery of wounded, injured and sick Service personnel and veterans through golf.
“I was surprised and completely thrilled to be asked to coach,” Chris said. “I’m so honored that the people who inspire me so much allowed me to coach them for this huge tournament!”
Dataw Island is abuzz with activity during the week of Veterans Day. They will host their Ninth Annual Veterans Golf Classic, an event which was started with the help of Dataw Island resident and retired U.S. Army COL. Glenn Blackburn, a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient. The Veterans Golf Classic is played by a field of 200 supporters (many of whom are themselves veterans) and 30 wounded veterans, and funds go to support the Folds of Honor and On Course foundations. The community also holds a parade with a touching color guard service, and Dataw members line the streets with thousands of miniature flags – a true site to behold, and hold a Veteran’s Breakfast and an honor ceremony.
“I am blown away by all the support given by this community (Dataw Island).” Blackburn said. “It is wonderful to see people embrace these events and these very worthy charitable organizations. I feel humbled to be a part of it and to have been able to watch it grow.”
Dataw Island Director of Golf, Dave Britton, is proud of his members and staff, saying “The support that the entire Dataw community has given the Veteran’s Golf Classic and all the veteran’s organizations over the years has been unbelievable.”
Many Dataw residents are veterans, and many are golfers – but these events are supported by so many people who are neither veterans or golfers, or even members; they are citizens who appreciate and honor the sacrifices made by our service people.
Britton adds, “It is a great honor to be involved as part of a community that has such a great heart for supporting our military.”