Operation Iraqi Putting Green

CSC SCANIA, Iraq — It's called Operation Iraqi Putting Green.

Major John McBrearty, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 185th Armor Regiment of the California National Guard is trying to bring a piece of American life to the wilds of Iraq: a driving range.

"It's just a dream I had when we got here," he said.

Six months ago, he arrived at the dusty Convoy Support Center Scania, about 100 miles south of Baghdad, with a few clubs to keep up his skills.

"I figured I could at least work on my swing wherever I am," he said.

But there was nowhere to play. So McBrearty decided his camp, which serves as a way station for convoys, needed a putting green and a driving range.

Needing the approval from his higher ups before teeing off on the project, McBrearty enlisted the support of friends and family at home. He also brought in donations from Callaway Golf and the Burbank chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Kiwanis for supplies.

"I figured I'd get all the equipment in hand then they couldn't say 'no,'" he said.

Six months later, with a connex filled with 25 sets of clubs, a few hundred yards of Astroturf, balls and tees, he and fellow hackers are ready. The group is now only waiting to obtain some much needed lumber before beginning construction.

A small area near the Morale, Welfare and Recreation tent will become a putting green; a larger area previously cleared for drainage will become a driving range.

Although he is spearheading the project, McBreaty said it is a unit effort. The green and range will be named in honor of Spc. Daniel Unger, a member of his unit killed in May.

"By the time we leave here, we'll probably have a pretty nice golf complex."

UPDATE: The range opened on October 30, 2004. Using a pitching wedge, Major McBrearty landed his third ball at the 50-yard marker. "Not bad for only having golfed twice in the past year of our deployment," he wrote via E-mail. He went on to describe the experience as one of "exhilaration, excitement and accomplishment."

To find out more about the range, including a look at playing conditions and the reaction of locals, read GOLFONLINE's Q&A with the Major and view the photo gallery.

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