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Maine company gives troops the gift of golf

Command Sgt. Maj. William Woods of the 193rd Military Police Battalion makes a finishing putt during a golf competition conducted at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on April 22, 2010.

LEWISTON, Maine — In response to a serviceman's email, a Maine golf company reached out with a massive donation to keep troops deployed to Afghanistan swinging.

It began with an innocent inquiry. Staff Sgt. Justin Poirier of Waterville, currently serving with the Maine Army National Guard, contacted Matt Barnard, marketing director at Harris Golf, about purchasing some equipment.

Poirier is part of the 133rd Engineer Battalion headquartered in Gardiner and currently serving at Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan. He is serving with nearly 200 men and women as part of Task Force Black Bear.

Harris Golf, based in Bath, operates nine golf courses throughout southern and central Maine, including Sunday River in Newry, Wilson Lake in Wilton and Penobscot Valley in Orono.

In the Dec. 19 email, Poirier told Barnard that the troops built a makeshift nine-hole course among the rocks and sand of Bagram but there was a problem: Searching for lost balls among the terrain of Afghanistan can be dangerous business.

Poirier said many balls were lost to the desert, so many that the troops had taken to pelting rocks with an old five iron, a club that would not be making the trip home.

According to Poirier's email, he only sought advice on a resource where he and his fellow soldiers could locate used equipment saying, "If you know of anything or any place where we could accomplish this, it would be deeply appreciated."

Barnard and Harris Golf arranged for a donation of clubs, bags and, most importantly, balls to the battalion.

According to Barnard, the care package includes four full sets of clubs, three right-handed and one lefty. Each set has a putter, wedges, irons, woods and a driver. Each set of clubs will come with a standing bag.

Harris Golf is also sending over nine custom-made flags and pins for their "course," along with two full-size hitting mats with tees and more than 700 new balls to keep soldiers playing, hopefully, until their estimated return in the summer.

Barnard said there were also other assorted accessories among the gear that is slated for delivery to the Bath post office Tuesday at 1 p.m.

In a continued gesture to the members of the 133rd, Harris Golf created a program where a person can purchase a golf pass and Harris Golf will in turn donate a pass to a service member in what they are calling their "Task Force Black Bear Pass."

Barnard said the matching pass will be donated in the purchaser's name to a member of Task Force Black Bear.

According to Harris Golf's website, "we want them to get out there and play at facilities worthy of their service."

The $50 pass includes 18 holes of golf, a cart and the choice of playing Sunday River, Old Marsh in Wells, Penobscot Valley or the Bath Golf Club.

Barnard said some patrons are contacting him, not to receive a pass for themselves, but to purely donate passes to service members.
 

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