Mason Overstreet

The 2017 champion Mason Overstreet of University of Arkansas will return this year to the Patriot All-America Golf Invitational. (Photo courtesy JDM Partners)

The Patriot All-America Invitational puts an honorable twist on traditional golf tournaments by honoring fallen and severely injured soldiers.

The eighth annual event, scheduled for December 27 to December 31 at The Wigwam, features the world’s best collegiate golfers. Prior to the tournament, golfers receive cards with soldiers’ names. The athletes carry bags emblazoned with the soldiers’ names.

After the tournament, the golfers’ bags are shipped to the athletes’ colleges to be auctioned. All proceeds benefit the Folds of Honor Foundation, which provides scholarships for children and spouses of military service men and women killed or disabled while in active service.

To focus on the military, the athletes tour Luke Air Force Base after their first practice round on December 27. They receive a police escort to the base and see the dog training facility, among other highlights.

The events begin on December 28 with Am/Am, an 18-hole golf tournament allowing registered participants to pair up with a Patriot All-America golfer in two-person teams. Each player plays his or her own ball, and the team’s score consists of the lowest score recorded either by the Patriot golfer or the registered player.

There are still limited spots available. Visit patriotallamerica.com for more information.

The tournament attracts more than 1,000 people, said Justin James, Patriot All-America executive committee member.

“This is high-quality golf,” James said. “You will see the future stars of the PGA Tour here. The sheer level the kids play at exceeds most. Plus, the overall experience of the event is so heavily focused on honoring fallen soldiers, and guests are presented with great hospitality.”

The Patriot All-America is about more than competing. The 2014 champion, Kyle Kochevar, carried for Maj. Samuel M. Griffith of the U.S. Marine Corps, who died in combat in 2011.

“I’ll never forget any of the soldiers I carried for because of the impact I feel I’ve had on their family and the impact they have had on me while carrying the bag during the Patriot All-America,” Kochevar said in a video promoting the invitational. “It’s good to know we are doing more than just playing golf here.”

Admission to watch the tournament is free, with VIP tickets available for purchase. A VIP ticket provides access to the Mavericks’ Corral located next to the 18th green, the Mavericks’ 16th hole skybox, and the Monster Pool skybox at the 18th hole. One-day VIP tickets are $50 each, and three-day passes are $100. All funds raised will go toward the Folds of Honor Foundation and West Valley charities. VIP tickets can be purchased at westvalleymavericksfoundation.org.

A new tent is being added this year, called Salute to Service, which is free to all military veterans, first responders and their guests.

The Patriot All-America is considered a top international amateur event. Collegiate golfers come from all three NCAA divisions, NAIA and NJCAA rankings.

PGA Tour golfers who have played in the Patriot All-America include two-time U.S. Open champ and PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka (2011); 2017 PGA Championship winner and 2017 FedEx Cup champion Justin Thomas (2011); Patrick Rodgers (2011); two-time PGA Tour winner Daniel Berger (2012); and four-time PGA Tour winner Bryson DeChambeau (2013).

“The kids that play in this event are aspiring professional golfers. There is a point system based on the field of play, and this event is a class A rating, the highest rating an event can get,” James said. “We have had three of the top five players in the world play at this event. The 2016 Patriot All-America champion has already made it and won at the PGA Tour.”

Tournament play begins December 29, with a champion crowned on New Year’s Eve. The winner of the Patriot All-America will receive a sponsor exemption into the Web.com Tour’s Wichita Open played June 20 to June 23 in Wichita, Kansas.

“The Web.com Tour is the level below the PGA Tour. It’s a pretty big deal to get exempt into that because it gives a taste of playing at the next level,” James said.

The Patriot All-America 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.

For more information on the Patriot All-America Golf Invitational, visit patriotallamerica.com