WORLEY, Idaho – Since he returned from Iraq last September, Ryan Robinson’s been too busy catching up on being a husband, father and commercial banker to work on his golf game.
“It’s been two years since I swung a club,” the Idaho National Guard battalion commander said Thursday morning.
He and other men and women of the military who were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan were treated to a free day of golf at the Circling Raven Golf Club, courtesy of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe.
They played an 18-hole tournament in the rain at the sprawling course, focusing on getting balls over water hazards and sand traps instead of more weighty concerns.
“Please enjoy the bad weather with us,” said Bob Bostwick, the Coeur d’Alene Casino’s public affairs director. “You won’t be in a desert with someone shooting at you; you won’t have a drill sergeant screaming in your face.”
Jason Nelsen, an Idaho National Guard member from Coeur d’Alene, relished the opportunity to have a carefree day. He looked forward to playing the course with his cousin, Blaine Holom, a Navy Seabee from Spokane.
“This is one of the best golf courses in the area,” said Nelsen, a heavy equipment operator who spent 10 months in Baghdad. “Any chance I can get to play this course without paying is a perk.”
But he predicted that Holom, who served in Afghanistan, would trounce him. “He’s going to embarrass me all day long,” Nelsen said.
The tournament had a shotgun start – meaning teams started their round on different holes throughout the course – with four servicemen from Fairchild Air Force Base occupying Hole 1.
“We’re just hackers,” Michael Herrington said modestly, before driving a ball cleanly over the hazard and onto the fairway.
He and his teammates work in medical-related jobs at Fairchild. “This is a really nice thing that the Coeur d’Alene Tribe has done,” said Darren Johannesen, another of the teammates.
The day also included a prime rib dinner for service members and their families at the Coeur d’Alene Casino, which donated $5,000 to a nonprofit that helps Idaho Guard and reserve members with emergency needs.
The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has a long tradition of honoring the sacrifices of military service, Cliff SiJohn, the tribe’s cultural director, said during the golf tournament’s opening ceremony.
“This is high medicine that you are feeling today,” he told the crowd. “You are truly all warriors of our heart.”