January 4

TRAVIS LAZARCZYK: Delivering golf to the desert

All Staff Sergeant Justin Poirier wanted was a place to purchase cheap golf balls.

Poirier, of Waterville, is currently serving with the 133rd Engineer Battalion in Bagram, Afghanistan. Poirier and the rest of Task Force Black Bear arrived in Afghanistan in October. Based out of Gardiner, the 133rd is made up of approximately 200 Maine men and women.

Matt Barnard, the communications director for Harris Golf in Bath, received the email from Poirier on the morning of Dec. 19.

“I’d never seen anything like this before,” Barnard said.

In his letter, Poirier introduced himself as a soldier with the Maine Army National Guard, stationed in Afghanistan. The 133rd had built a scraggly, 9-hole golf course. They played on rock and sand, and it was a good way to pass the time when not working. The brutal terrain made looking for lost balls close to impossible.

Poirier had one, simple question. Where could he and his colleagues with Task Force Black Bear buy cheap, used golf balls on the Internet? They were down to hitting rocks with a 5 iron.

Barnard took Poirier’s email to Jeff Harris, the president of Harris Golf. They could do more than sell these guys some golf balls, right?

“These men and women are far away from home and their families, missing out on the holidays in Maine because of the job they signed up to do on our behalf,” Harris said. “Golf is helping them do that important work. And where the game would seem to be an impossibility, they’ve made it possible. We felt like we had to do more than simply sell them some golf balls.”

Short of caddies and a 19th hole, Harris pulled together everything the 133rd will need to continue playing golf in Afghanistan. By sometime this week, Poirier and the rest of the 133rd will have what’s essentially a portable golf course.

The 133rd will be receiving four sets of clubs, including one set of left-handed clubs. Each of the four bags is filled with tees, balls, anything they’ll need. Harris sent 700 brand new range balls, Barnard said.

Because the rocky ground is battering their clubs, the 133rd also is getting two hitting mats. The gang at Harris Golf cut down nine flags. The flags, and pins, will fit in a golf bag.

The shipment went out last Tuesday, Barnard said. He’s been told by Poirier it usually takes stuff seven to 10 days to reach them from the United States.

The 133rd will be able to continue playing golf as a way to unwind after working long hours in Afghanistan. When they come home this summer, they’ll be able to play more rounds here. On top of the equipment it sent to Afghanistan, Harris Golf created the Task Force Black Bear Pass. Golfers who buy the pass can play a round at one of the company’s nine Maine courses, and for every pass purchased, Harris is donating a round of golf to the 133rd.

“A number of people called and said ‘Don’t send me the pass, send everything to them,’” Barnard said.

Come home safely, and play a round on us. You won’t find a better deal.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242tlazarczyk@centralmaine.comTwitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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