Golf course creates unique memorial to raise money for military families

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – A Durham golf course is using a unique memorial to help to raise awareness and money for military families who have lost a loved one.

The memorial may not look like much when you look at it at first, said Karl Kimball, director of golf operations at Hillandale Golf Course.

"It just kind of looks like a bunch of white marks on the fairway in a very, very green area, but once you get there, it gets very real," he said.

It took Kimball, local golfers and Boy Scout Troop 438 from Hillsborough some 30 cans of paint and eight hours of work to create the memorial.

Five thousand characters make up the "Fairway of Honor," a list painted on the fairway of the 18th hole that features the names of 191 North Carolinians who died serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The display has resulted in an overwhelming response from many of the golfers.

"[There has been] a tremendous amount of comments from golfers," Kimball said. "A lot of handshaking [and] a lot of tears.

"The last morning it took me to lay the names down, I had an individual come up to me with tears in his eyes, 22 year member of the United States Army, just shook my hand and thanked me and left. So, it's pretty powerful."

While the display is powerful on the ground, it's even more so from above when you can see all 150 yards of names.

"It really kind of lets us know really the magnitude of this because when you're at ground level, you kind of see what's available in front of you, but when you get something in the aerial view of it, it has a larger impact."

Kimball came up with the idea.

"For me to see some military individuals come out just to view it or to have golfers tip-toe very gingerly to retrieve their golf ball from this temporary memorial, it's a very special moment," he said.

The memorial draws attention to Hillandale's participation in "Patriot Golf," a fundraising weekend each Labor Day weekend that raises money for the "Folds of Honor Foundation."

"Those funds will go to the children of our fallen and ensure that they have an opportunity for a higher level of education," Kimball said.

Kimball said Hillandale's team has raised $43,000 in three years to support the Folds of Honor Foundation. On top of that, he said in the past two years, the course ranked in the top 70 of all courses in the U.S. taking part in Patriot Golf Week.

"This is one opportunity that we can really display our patriotism by being involved with the lives of the children who have lost somebody," Kimball said. "We've been given a debt that only a grateful nation knows it cannot pay."

There was a tournament on Saturday and Kimball said he plans to play golf for 24 straight hours starting Monday night in an effort to continue to raise the $25,000 goal. That money will help five kids.

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