Tamme drives a golf cart during a previous Swings for Soldiers Classic.
(Photo from Swings for Soldiers)
By Alex Forkner
A little more than three years ago, former UK football standout and current Denver Bronco Jacob Tamme sat down with his wife, Allison, to discuss possible charitable endeavors in Kentucky. They didn’t want to simply write a check, but hoped to organize an event and get others involved.
This brainstorming session gave birth to the Swings for Soldiers Classic, a golf event benefitting Homes for Our Troops, a charity that builds specialty homes for wounded veterans.
“I’ve always had an appreciation for the work ethic and the sacrifices these folks make and an admiration for what they do, and the end-goal is to help build homes for people who can’t live in the homes they had when they left this country and went out and fought for us,” Tamme said. “They need a hand to allow them to live somewhat of a normal life and to be able to operate in a home. That’s something as Americans, for the past century—home ownership and having a home—has been important to people of our country, and no one deserves a house that feels like a home more than these people who nearly sacrificed everything for our freedom.”
Groups of golfers will tee up at Keene Run Golf Club outside Lexington for a day full of golf, a silent and live auction, featuring sports memorabilia and getaway vacations, as well as lunch and dinner. This is the third year Tamme, his wife and their team of organizers have held the event. They raised more than $160,000 in the first two years.
The scale of the scramble grew significantly from year one to year two, almost doubling in terms of participation.
“The second year we decided we were going to do a double shotgun start and do an 8 o’clock morning round and a 1 o’clock afternoon round,” Tamme said. “We were blessed, people were so generous and we filled up both rounds to the max.”
So many teams signed up that it actually created a logjam on the course, slowing down play. Tamme said it was a testament to the commitment people show in helping veterans.
“People have really enjoyed supporting the cause, and we try to make it a fun day. I think people enjoy coming out and being a part of the event, but at the end of the day I think people support it because they really believe in what we’re doing.”
This year, the proceeds will go toward building a home for Army Sgt. Kenneth Harker in Evansville, Ind. On his second deployment to Baghdad, Harker lost both his legs when his HUMVEE was struck by an EFP (Explosively Formed Penetrator). You can view a full profile of Harker here.
“(Harker) and his family are going to be joining us at the event, so that’s going to be really special,” Tamme said.
Even though this year’s event is at capacity, Tamme said there are other ways for people to get involved. One way is to contribute time and labor to the construction of a home, such as the one being built for Harker.
“People can always volunteer at a Homes for Our Troops build, and that’s probably one of the best ones to do, one of the closer ones to our area right now in Kentucky—the closest one, I think. That actually is going to be built the weekend after our event, so July 20, 21, 22—Friday, Saturday and Sunday—is when the build brigade comes in. My wife and I are going to volunteer there on Friday, and people can always get involved by doing that.”
Also, donations can be made through both the Swings for Soldiers Classic and Homes for Our Troops websites.
“Anyone can donate at anytime,” Tamme said. “We have a lot of people who donate any amount, from ten bucks to $500, through the website. There’s a donate tab there that takes them to a secure server. We call them ‘Friends of the Classic,’ and they can make a donation of any amount. They can also just send a check to Homes for Our Troops.”
In addition to the registered teams, the event will host several special military guests from various branches of the armed forces. Local sports legends and personalities such as Walter McCarty, Ron Mercer, Kyle Macy, Jared Lorenzen, Tom Leach, Mike Pratt, Dave Baker and others will also hit the links. Tamme said he is honored that so many people would make time for The Classic.
“I get asked to do a ton of things, so I understand when I’m asking these folks to come donate their time to play golf with people that they don’t know. I know they are extremely busy, and they get pulled in all these different directions as well. So I always tell them I understand, and they always keep saying they want to come be a part of it. It’s pretty awesome.
“I’m very grateful for the celebrity golfers and the military celebrities we have planned. It does mean a lot to me that people take the time to come out, and we try to do our best to make sure they have a good time, so it ends up working out well. It’s really pretty humbling to have a lot of people around the Kentucky area who folks know and would enjoy playing golf with coming out to join us.”
It is Tamme’s hope that the Swings for Soldiers Classic will continue for years to come, so he, his wife and all the generous people who contribute can keep turning putts for par into homes for heroes.
“It’s a year-to-year thing, but our goal is to definitely continue to have it. We’ll kind of re-evaluate after every year,” he said. “People have been so supportive right now, so I don’t anticipate anything changing.”