Before teaching tips on the golf course Monday, Craig Stadler took the time to give autographs to a room of more than 150 uniformed soldiers.
“It just shows you what a great American he is,” Gordon Lakes Golf Club Manager Bill Fumai said.
Stadler, 58, has a long history with golf, from his introduction to the sport at age 4 to his Masters win in 1982 and his jump to the Champions Tour in 2003.
Although his professional career has been limited since his hip replacement surgery in 2010, Stadler, also known as “The Walrus,” led a golf clinic Monday morning at Gordon Lakes Golf Club on Fort Gordon, offering tips on foot stance, clubs and swings.
“It was awesome,” he said after the demonstrations. “Every bit of support we can lend these guys and girls is necessary.”
Fumai said Stadler had been scheduled for a clinic a previous year but had to cancel for surgery. This year, Stadler admitted to a different injury but insisted on going through with the clinic, Fumai said.
“He has a bad back, but he still wanted to do it.”
More than 100 people in Army fatigues and civilian clothing gathered on the bleachers in front of the Pine No. 9 Green while Stadler took center stage.
Spc. Raymone Kelman, who said he has limited experience in the sport, was amazed by Stadler’s ability to make great shots while purposely trying to demonstrate bad shots.
“I’m pretty sure I can’t hit it like him,” Kelman said.
The crowd was especially interested in the golfer’s bunker skills.
“If you ask every pro at the Augusta National if they’d rather be in the bunker or the grass, probably 100 percent would say the bunker,” he said.
Like everything else, Stadler emphasized practice to the golfers in the stands. He also advised they have an assistant watch their shots to see how different shots are affected by each speed and swing.
Stadler said that besides teaching a few tips, his main goal was to give the soldiers an opportunity “to laugh a little bit.”
Pfc. Oscar Perez was on the course with a signed photo in hand.
Perez said he planned to send a autographed photo of Stadler to his brother, a huge golf fan currently deployed to Iraq.