'Gophers' Golf for Injured Troops

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2007 - Inspired by pro golf's support of the troops, about 100 golfers hit the links each weekend for friendly competition that ultimately benefits injured servicemembers.

Those who come away victorious from the informal games at Tournament Players Club Sawgrass in Jacksonville, Fla., donate a portion of their winnings to the cause, Dan McAuliffe, the games' organizer, said. Since December, the "Gophers," as the group calls itself, have raised nearly $2,000 in this manner.

"We play together week in and week out. ... We decided, 'Let's go to the golf course, and let's make a difference (for the troops)," McAuliffe, a former New York law enforcement officer, said. "I've got a great deal of respect for the guys in the uniform."

The money the group is raising will ultimately benefit Homes for Our Troops, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and Lickliter's adopted group, Wounded Warrior Project. Other PGA golfers have adopted troop-support groups, including Phil Mickelson who champions both Homes for Our Troops and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

All of these troop-support groups are members of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

The Gophers are expanding their fundraising efforts with a June 14 cocktail party, which will include a raffle of donated goods from community retailers. The tickets, selling at $150 per couple, already have pumped up the total the group will donate to America Supports You groups.

"I think we're between $10,000 and $15,000 ... that we've raised due to the ticket sales of the cocktail party," McAuliffe said. "Instead of doing a silent auction, ... every ticket that is bought, that ticket stub is good as a raffle ticket.

"Everybody's so willing to help," he added.

McAuliffe also emphasizes to those who question him that this is an apolitical venture. "This is not about party affiliation," he said. "This is about guys in uniform, and that's all it's about.

"It's about raising money for them just in case they need a helping hand when they get back, the money is there," he said.

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