Cindy McCain

Cindy McCain spoke at the eighth annual Patriot All-America Golf Tournament at The Wigwam. (West Valley View photo by Pablo Robles)

Cindy McCain stressed the importance of doing “the right thing” when she opened the eighth annual Patriot All-America Golf Tournament at The Wigwam.

The 64-year-old philanthropist and entrepreneur was greeted with a standing ovation from golfers, dignitaries, fans and sponsors when she spoke of her late husband, Sen. John McCain, who died in August after a battle with brain cancer.

“My husband lived every day to its fullest,” McCain said. “He lived every day under the three words that meant the most to him – duty, honor and country.”

Those words were synonymous with the late politician. His nerves and beliefs were tested during his life, but he stood strong.

“Like so many of our fine, young people who have given the ultimate sacrifice, he was tested in his life,” McCain explained. “He was tested early on in prison. He was tested as a Naval officer. He was tested as a pilot. He was tested as a U.S. senator. The one thing he always said to our children and to me is: Do the right thing. It may not be the popular thing, but do the right thing.”

Joining McCain at the opening festivities was Folds of Honor Senior Vice President Maj. Ed Pulido; Luke Air Force Base 56th Fighter Wing Commander Gen. Todd Canterbury; 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open Assistant Tournament Chairman Maj. Tim Woods; and West Valley Mavericks President Wade Accomazzo.

Founded in 2011, the Patriot All-America Golf Tournament is a 54-hole affair comprised of 84 Ping All-America golfers from the three NCAA Divisions, NAIA and NJCAA conferences. Universities from outside of the United States are also represented.

Each participant plays in honor of a fallen or severely injured soldier by carrying a golf bag bearing the name of that soldier. Before the tournament, participants receive a card with the soldier’s story, so they can be familiar with the persons, what they represented and how they were killed or wounded in action.

The tournament is a collaboration between the Arizona Golf Association, JDM Partners, The West Valley Mavericks and the Golf Coaches Association of America in partnership with the Folds of Honor Foundation. The Thunderbirds, hosts of the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, volunteer at and support the event.

Sportscaster Jeff Munn introduced the speakers and emceed the ceremony, which also included the presentation of colors by the Luke Air Force Base Joint Color Guard, a U.S. Air Force F-35 flyover and a U.S. Air Force Wings of Blue parachute descent. Retired U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Powell performed the national anthem.

Last year’s tournament champion, Mason Overstreet from the University of Arkansas, presented McCain with her husband’s name and military title as U.S. Navy captain etched into a personalized golf bag.

“If you learned anything from today, gentlemen,” McCain said, turning toward the 84 participants sitting next to the stage, “I hope that you learn your best is important by not only playing a good game and a fair game, but playing a game that means so much to people around the world and doing it the best. And doing it with honor. 

“Those things are important, and my husband would be the first to tell you to hold your head high and be the best you can be.”