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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. The true spirit of the Association of the United States Army's winter golf tournament was reflected not on the links or in the clubhouse, but rather in the generosity of players who donated their winnings to soldiers in attendance.
The event is the world's largest tournament solely dedicated to supporting soldiers and wounded warriors, said retired Col. Russell Davis, the tournament director.
It started with 61 people in 2000; this year, a record 420 players covered three courses.
The goal was to raise $120,000. The record was set in 2009, when the tournament raised $131,000.
Davis, already busy preparing next year's tournament, hopes sponsorships will increase to keep that number climbing.
"We give 99.6 percent of that money back to the soldiers in a variety of ways, and the rest covers our administrative costs," he said.
Some giving got an early start as tournament and raffle winners repeatedly handed their winnings to a small group of soldiers in attendance. The prizes ranged from Bose headphones and netbooks to humidors and power tools and a mountain of golf clubs, bags and accessories.
After the first few prizes were awarded, many attendees cut to the chase and handed their raffle tickets to the soldiers and their families.
As numbers were called, appreciative children and wives scanned piles of red raffle tickets while the soldiers looked for room to store the night's winnings.
Sgt. 1st Class Mike Oates, an imagery analyst based in Tampa, left with a dozen items, including a new set of clubs with bag, golf balls, a wine container and a DeWalt power drill.
"This is overwhelming," he said. "The fact that people are willing to give us what they won really means a lot."
And it is Davis' favorite part of the event.
"This happens every year," he said. "No one asks them to do it. They just do it. And that really says a lot about these participants. They really have a heart for the soldiers."
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