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Army takes second in local golf tournament

Annual three-day tournament pits top Army, Air Force, Navy golfers against each other in friendly competition

Frank Lobos watches his tee shot on the 12th hole June 22 during the 2012 Rainier Cup at Whispering Firs Golf Course on JBLM McChord Field. Scott Hansen/PAO

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A 40-person golf team representing the Navy traveled down to Joint Base Lewis-McChord June 22 with the Rainier Cup in tow. After playing a 54-hole team competition over three days, the coveted Rainier Cup returned to rest at Gallery Golf Course on Whidbey Island for another year.

Navy retained possession and dominance of the annual Rainier Cup competition that pits Army, Air Force and Navy against each other in a friendly golf competition. Navy improved its record to nine wins, while Air Force remained at six victories and Army stayed stuck at one.

Whispering Firs Golf Course manager Jeff Clark, along with Gallery Golf Course manager Ernie Ghezzi, started the Rainier Cup 15 years ago. At that time it was just Army vs. Air Force.

"I wanted to build unity and camaraderie between the services," Clark said.

Four years later Navy was added to the mix and has been causing fits for the Air Force and Army ever since. When the 2012 Rainier Cup kicked off at Whispering Firs, Air Force and Army were more optimistic about their chances.

"Let's take a moment of silence for Navy and Army because they're going down," Whispering Firs Assistant Manager Pat Regan announced over the intercom before play began.

Each team featured 36 men and four women who qualified for the team the week prior to the tournament. The tournament was open to active duty, family members, Reserves, National Guard, Coast Guard, Department of Defense civilians and retirees.

The tournament at Whispering Firs featured a best ball format where golfers teamed up in pairs and the lowest score between the pairs was recorded. Saturday's competition at Eagle's Pride outside JBLM featured a scramble format where the pairs played from the best drive. Sunday was individual match play where Army, Air Force and Navy played against each other individually.

"I've never lost in individual match play," Army's Tony Melessa said.

The retired Soldier returned this year for his third year in the tournament. He teamed with retired Soldier Ruel Poliquit. The pair drove around the course in a golf cart with a U.S. Army flag attached to the back. Poliquit and Melessa helped lead the Army to a second place finish.

"We always start strong and finish weak," Melessa said.

Army dressed in gray polo shirts and black sweater vests while Air Force stood out in bright blue polo shirts. Navy wore khaki-colored team uniforms. The rainy weather brought out rain gear and golf umbrellas.

Those who competed in the annual tournament didn't seek fame and fortune, since there is no prize money. They competed for bragging rights.

"It's just for pride," Frank Lobos said. "Pride for service. A lot of teams have retirees, but still it's for the pride of their service."

Lobos, who works at the blood donor center at Madigan Healthcare System, represented Air Force. This year marked the fourth time he competed. He was on the team when Air Force last won the Rainier Cup two years ago.

Regardless of military branch, golfers enjoyed their time out on the course together, exchanging snarky remarks, encouraging words and fist bumps.

"This is the most fun tournament I play in all year," he said. "The format and all the friends you make here."


Champion: Navy
Runner-up: Army

Third place: Air Force

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