At the beginning of my sophomore year, I was sitting in a meeting for our UNC student-athletes to learn about the outreach opportunities that were available that year. As they listed off the numerous ways we could volunteer in the community, including hospital visits, Habitat for Humanity work, serving at the SECU, reading at elementary schools, etc. I felt something was missing. I didn’t see any way we could honor and give back to our military. 

Growing up, it was ingrained in me to be thankful for the men and women who valiantly serve our country. Both of my grandpa’s served in our military. My mom’s father, Pop Pop, fought in World War II. For that he is a true hero. Unfortunately, he passed before I was born so I was never able to observe his patriotism. My father’s dad, Opa, served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. It was always clear to me the utmost respect Opa had for those currently serving and those who had served. My grandpa passed in 2012, and there are many lessons I learned from his life that I carry with me every day (which I will pay tribute to later in my blog). This lesson, in particular, hit me the moment I said my final goodbye. As the three-volley salute fired and the perfectly folded American flag was handed to my grandma, I experienced the most helpless sorrow I’d ever felt. At that moment, I thought about the pain loved ones must feel as they look at the American flag draped over the casket of a soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice. My grandpa lived a full life dying at the age of 73 from lung cancer. While we all wish he would have lived longer, I can’t help but imagine the grief family and friends must feel when their loved one loses their life far too young by selfless protecting our country so we can live in freedom. 

My grandpa, David “Fritz” Walker, during his time in the service.

As I sat in the outreach meeting, I thought back to that moment, and it filled me with a passion for finding a way to honor the people who deserve more than we can give. As a division one athlete, I thought I stood on a tremendous platform to make an impact. 

My first thought was Folds of Honor. Folds of Honor is an organization that raises money to provide scholarships for children and spouses of fallen or disabled service-members. I knew they were heavily involved with golf through partnerships with different companies and tournaments. As a Titleist and FootJoy loyalist, I always preferred to wear my pair of MyJoys with the 13-Fold flag symbol on the heel. It was my first little way of honoring our military. After some research and reaching out to Folds of Honor, I was fortunate enough to get in contact with Mr. Tony Biata, VP of Patriot Golf Day. Mr. Biata informed me of the Folds of Honor Military Tribute Program that was available for high school and collegiate golf teams. It seemed the perfect opportunity had landed right in my lap. 

The Folds of Honor Military Tribute Program is a way for golf teams to honor a veteran and raise money for the organization. Throughout our season, we have one golf bag with the name of the soldier we are honoring on it. Each tournament, the bag is carried by a different member of our team. It is the last bag to go in the van, the first to be taken out and is handled with honor and respect. 

This year we are honoring U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Michael A. Mackey. Fortunately, his daughter is also a senior at UNC and is a Folds of Honor scholarship recipient. This semester, we have been able to spend time getting to know his daughter, and we are looking forward to meeting Sergeant Mackey!

Current team with Krista Mackey, Sergeant Mackey’s daughter.

North Carolina is the second-largest state for Folds of Honor Fundraising behind Texas. Primarily because of the differing size of the states. You know the famous Mark Twain quote, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Well, I’m hoping our golf team can help raise more money in the state of North Carolina and catch up to Texas. One scholarship is $5,000, and we are hoping to raise at least that this year. I hope this blog, at the very least, allowed you to take a moment and feel sincere gratitude for the men and women serving our country. If it propelled you to want to donate to our team fundraising, you can do so by clicking this LINK or text UNCFOH to 833-843-1313 to make a credit card donation. Any amount is much appreciated.

If you are in the service, the reserves or a veteran, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done for our country. I am grateful for the freedom we have every day, and I know without the men and women like you, America wouldn’t be what it is. Thank you. 


UNC Sports Extra story done by Alanna Pyrtle on the start of the Military Tribute Program for UNC Women’s Golf (click link above).