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The biggest hero at the Phoenix Open works in the parking lot, not on the golf course

"I thought, 'This is great, I know Mike's dad, I'm getting hired for a gig,'" Jason remembers. "After five minutes, Mike says, 'Jason, I'm just messing with you. I'm here with 54 other guys on a speakerphone. I'm calling to tell you that you're a Thunderbird now. You're one of us.'

"I was speechless. It was one of the biggest honors of my life."

Jason was the assistant in charge of parking last year for the Phoenix Open. This week, he was the tournament's parking czar. The Thunderbird affiliation is a full-circle deal for Jason, who sneaked out of class on occasion when he was a kid to watch the pros at the old Phoenix Open at Phoenix Country Club.

"Somehow, I never got caught," Jason says. He remembers watching Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Lee Trevino and Trevino's big caddie, Herman Mitchell. Those were the days.

His own dreams of playing professional golf ended in community college, which he left to join the Air Force in military security. He did a tour in South Korea ("I wanted to see some of the world."); a stint guarding B-1 bombers in Grand Forks, N.D. ("Nice people, but I've never seen anything worse than winter there. It hurts to inhale in 40-below wind chill. Plus I slipped on ice and fell on my M16 and broke my collarbone."); served on a base in Pensacola, Fla., near a golf course where his uncle worked ("That was paradise."); and then spent five months in a tent at Guantanamo Bay guarding Cubans and Haitians in a camp ("It was like Groundhog Day. Feed 'em breakfast -- fight. Feed 'em lunch -- fight. They were good people, just frustrated by the conditions.").

He left the military for the Phoenix police, and you know the rest. Golf has always been there for him. Two years ago, he caddied for Purdy at the Byron Nelson Championship. Jason is proud that in his only Tour caddie appearance, Purdy ended a string of 11 missed cuts.

Now Jason speaks at public functions, does some occasional private investigation work and has his own charitable foundation, "Beyond the Flames," which is pretty much a one-man operation.

"Everyone has hardships or adversity," Jason says. "I like that my burns can represent other people's adversity. Public speaking is my calling, for sure. I've had a lot of tremendous opportunities because of the accident. Sometimes, I wonder where I'd be today.

"My life is so good now, I wouldn't go back and change a thing."

Wrap your head around that sentence ... if you can. Jason is truly unsinkable.

The officers who pulled Jason out of that burning car had it wrong. They didn't do Jason a favor by saving him that night. That favor belongs to us.

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