Photo by Michael Jordan

By Joe McHugh | November 8, 2021

The Patriot All-America golf tournament has opened its field to women for the first time in its 11 years.

Held at the Wigwam Golf Club starting December 28, this year’s iteration will show top men’s and women’s amateur golfers from around the nation.

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“We’re excited about that start from the women,” says Dustin Roberts, a representative for the Golf Coaches Association of America. “If you’re someone who loves golf, it’s a great chance to go out and see them. Folks are going to be watching them on the weekends on the PGA Tour and the LPGA.”

The tournament has produced many PGA tour winners over its 11 years, including Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas when the field was limited to just men. This year, fans may see the next Lexi Thompson or Lydia Ko.

“We are really fortunate to have some really, really good ladies players in the bill this year,” Robert says.

“A couple of the highlights are Julia Johnson, who plays at Ole Miss, who is the defending national champion on the women’s side. You have Louise Duncan, who actually goes to Stirling University in Scotland.”

Aside from Duncan and Johnson, the women’s field is set to include multiple players inside the top 100 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, as well as many collegiate All-Americans.

Players include University of Oregon’s Cynthia Lu and Michigan State University’s Valery Plata.

The Patriot All-America tournament is a golf tournament, turned public event, mimicking the Waste Management Phoenix Open, “Greatest Show on Grass.” The tournament was the idea of the Arizona Golf Association and the Golf Coaches of America, in conjunction with The Wigwam and the Biltmore golf courses, and has flourished.

“There were conversations about a ‘bowllike’ event for college golf,” says Sean Scibienski, a representative for the West Valley Mavericks, which sponsors the event.

“The original concept was, ‘How do we get the top amateur golfers in the world to come to an event and really have the atmosphere that they would, if they were a football program playing in a bowl game?’”

The “bowl game” experience has grown. Starting as a 10-by-10-foot tent at a golf course bringing in about 50 people, the tourney attracts more than 1,000 fans to experience golf, food, beverage, live music and fundraising during the week.

“It’s great, great golf, an incredibly party, all for a great cause of supporting the military,” Scibienski says.

The tournament is more than a golfing event or a public spectacle. The Patriot All-America honors those who have served or died for the U.S. military and armed forces.

They work with the Folds of Honor, founded by Lt. Col. Dan Rooney. The organization provides scholarships to families of fallen and disabled service members.

The Patriot All-America brings former soldiers to the greens as well, as the tournament selects players from the Veterans Golf Association to play alongside the amateurs.

“We offer an exemption into the field for their national champion,” Scibienski says. “They have a series of tournaments to qualify for a national championship tournament. And the winner of that event, the winners on the men and the women’s field of the open event, which is the more competitive version, get an exemption into our field.”

It goes a step further than that. Golfers carry a custom-made golf bag with severely injured or fallen soldiers’ names and bios on them.

After golfers finish their rounds, the bags are autographed by amateur golfers and auctioned. The profits go to Folds of Honor.

“What we like to say is, ‘That golfer is taking that soldier on his final tour of duty,’” Scibienski says.

Last year, the festivities were halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was successfully livestreamed, and that will continue this year. The Patriot All-America will be featured on ESPN, the Golf Channel and Golfweek, among others.

“We are going to continue the livestream because there is a lot of parents and fans that can’t travel to Arizona at that time of year, no matter how much they’d like to,” Scibienski says. “We’d like to give them an opportunity to see their kids and see the events.”

The 2021 tournament starts with the Am-Am Tournament, which features hobbyists playing with the nation’s top young golfers. They then are offered dinner and present awards. Afterward, the opening ceremony features keynote speakers, a military flyover and a parachute team drop-in.

After the first round, the golfers tour Luke Air Force Base, where they are given VIP access and they witness the retiring of the American flag that flew over Luke Air Force Base for the past year.

The tournament winner receives the retired flag, special jacket and trophy.

“Every player I have talked to that have played in this event just raved about it,” Scibienski says. “They have tried to come back, and it is just a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The Patriot All-America

When: Various times Tuesday, December 28, to Friday, December 31

Where: Wigwam Golf Club, 451 N. Old Litchfield Road, Litchfield Park

Cost: Free admission; $100 VIP daily; $250 VIP for three days. VIP includes food and beverage and access to the VIP tents

Info: patriotallamerica.com

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