Episode 10 - Air Force Academy

Secret Golf's Steve Elkington with his buddy Mark Willingham visits the United States Air Force Academy and tries his hand at becoming a Cadet.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] NARRATOR: On this episode of Secret Golf Elk enrolls with cadets at the United States Air Force Academy.

-I have a number of things that I thought about when I was there I have family in Australia that are in the military, and I have family members in America that are in the military.

NARRATOR: We meet the Academy's golfing Top Gun.

-I came here actually the summer of my sophomore year in high school to sports camp and fell in love with the coaching staff here at the golf course. The Academy itself, I knew this is where I wanted to the come.

NARRATOR: And we sample the traditions of the cadets.

STEVE ELKINGTON: It was really nice to see how they're trained, not only to bring the flag down, but the discipline it took to snap that flag in total respect and to fold that flag and then to give it off.

NARRATOR: Secret Golf is rolling your way.



THEME SONG: It's Secret Golf. It's what I'm looking for. It's why I get up every morning, call my good timing friends, keeps me comin' back for more. Secret Golf. We're headed down the road. We're just loading up the Big Show, going looking for the heart and soul. Roll until the wheels fall off. It's Secret Golf. Shhh, it's a secret.

GEORGE KOURY: First and foremost, we're trying to produce young men and women that are going to go and be leaders, whether it's a long-term career in the Air Force, or just a leader of industry. So we're really trying to challenge these young men and women to do things that they didn't believe they could do.

NARRATOR: 25 years ago, Mike Schulter was one of those kids that took the challenge. And today he takes Elk and his buddy, Mark Willingham, back to school.

MIKE SCHULTER: It was really nostalgic. As much time has gone by, it still seemed like you instantly are refreshed of all these memories that were filed away, and now it's right back. These are silhouettes that they paint on these alcoves so that when cadets are going down the hall, that they can be continuously reminded to just visually recognize airplanes of all different types and eras and stuff.

-So, if I was here, I'd have my swing in three different--


MIKE WILLINGHAM: Three different angles.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Three different angles. I'm going to go meet a young man, Blake Edwards, down here who lives in your dorm, who's on the golf team here. And I'm going to see what it's like to be a cadet here.

-Good morning.

-Blake Edwards?

-Yes, sir.

-Steve Elkington.

NARRATOR: In addition to his studies, Cadet First Class Blake Edwards oversaw more than two dozen individuals. Not too shabby for this now graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, who also happened to be a standout on the Air Force golf team.

BLAKE EDWARDS: My older sister played golf, and I wanted to do everything my older sister did. So I kind of followed her growing up. She played college golf and that was kind of always a dream of mine. And I'm lucky enough to I spent the last four years playing college golf and it's been a dream come true.

NARRATOR: While service to country reigns supreme, Edwards always maintained a love for the game.

BLAKE EDWARDS: I knew this is where I wanted to come. But the biggest kind of segue for me was being recruited to play golf for the Air Force.

-He's such a well-spoken young man and he's such a nice young man. He's a golfer. He's in training to be a F-16 pilot. There's way meeting Blake Edwards that you wouldn't think that his future is really looking really well. There's a lot of symbolism between golf and the rules, Air Force and the rules. Would you agree?

-Big correlation.

-Yeah. Because we all have to play by the rules. We're always on time. In fact, if we don't make our tee time, we're disqualified out of the whole competition. So this is a very regimented rules-based--

-Yeah that's a--


-I'd say golf and the Academy has a lot in common.

-Our core values here at the Academy are service before self, integrity first, and excellence in all we do. It couldn't be more parallel to what we do on a golf course. We're our own officials for the most part of these young men and women. You know, they're held to a higher standard because we, as a nation, when they graduate, we need to know that they've got our back.

-You're not just doing things the right way when somebody is watching you, when there's a camera on you at a golf tournament or whatever. In the military, it's doing the right thing when nobody is looking. And it's the same thing out on a golf course.

SPEAKER 1: All right. So we do have our guests in the class, so make them feel welcome.

-I knew that it was going to be serious up there. I mean, they're studying serious things.

-I"m not likely to pass this course.

SPEAKER 1: We have a five-minute quiz. Don't panic. OK.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Why does a golf ball have dimples? I know number two up there.

SPEAKER 1: You know number two?

STEVE ELKINGTON: Well, it won't fly without them. Well, it will fly, but it won't fly with any precision. Right?

-The portion of the air behind the ball as it's traveling is basically a lower pressure than in front of it. These dimples reduce that area behind it and allow it to fly farther.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Somewhat believable.

SPEAKER 1: Somewhat believable.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Yeah. They're protectors of the country to a certain degree, and a very important school in the big scheme of things.

-I don't even think I got the golf ball thing right.

NARRATOR: Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th President of United States. A Five-Star General in the Army, Ike developed a passion for the game later in life, so it was fitting a golf course be named in his honor.

-He was the sitting president. And when the Academy, actually the governor of Colorado, Governor Thornton, went to the White House to ask permission, and General Eisenhower President sent him a nice letter saying he would love to have the course named in his honor. And July 8th of '63 he came out and hit the first tee shot.

-It was important to him that this school have a first-class facility. He knew that it relates to what they're doing up there at that school. That's one of the reasons why he was such an avid golfer. He knew that value.

-It's a wonderful tradition. You have two courses.

-We do have two course, the blue and the silver course. The blue course was the one dedicated in '63, and the silver course came along a little bit later.

-We have coach Koury, golf coach here at Air Force Academy. Thank you so much for coming and showing us your home track today.

-Thank you for being here.

-You have a little story. This is all connected right here. Right here, Mike, tell us a story about you. You were a freshman, or a C1C Cadet, when you were a C14. Oh, I got it backwards. I got it backwards.

-C4C Fourth-Class Cadet. First-Class Cadet.

-And you remember what?

-I remember he lived across the hall from me.

STEVE ELKINGTON: What was your job?

GEORGE KOURY: My job was to bring him food in the evening. Yes.

-And there was one other job you told me.

MIKE SCHULTER: He was good at it, too.

STEVE ELKINGTON: You had to wake him.

GEORGE KOURY: I had to wake him up 15 minutes before he had to be somewhere. Those were my two jobs as a freshman.

-And that sat well with you. Is that right?

-Absolutely. Absolutely.

-He was nice to you as a freshman.

-Nice is a relative term. Yes. He was.

-There wasn't too much I could pick from with that one. That was hit pretty good. Got a real nice repeatable swing, like a lot of guys. But a lot of people don't realize that just one little elbow move one way changes that right hand there and that faces it out of whack, and then it's got to get back into whack. So we worked on that right elbow position where we get that arm underneath so it's real solid, so when it comes down it'd be real square there.

This right elbow here, if this crook in the elbow and the elbow had three positions, it was all the way in, in the middle, all the way out, we like in the middle. We'll call that number two. As we get to this position here, to get it where we want it at this crucial juncture, we don't go to number three. We don't even stay at number two. We go to number one. We turn it in. And that's what gets that hand right up underneath. So we go from two, two, two, two, two, two. And here, we turn it to one.

MIKE SCHULTER: The real thing was an adjustment to the top of my swing to get a little more leverage on the ball as I come through.

-Would you like to be up there? That's hammer time up there, right. There you go.

-And it really took a couple of tries. And then on the next few you could tell a difference. It was a quick fix.

-There's the one we wanted right there. That had noise. Eisenhower Golf Course. Coach, you picked Number 8. It's a par 4. It will be the first hole of our Secret Smackdown. You and Mike are going to play Willy and I.

MIKE SCHULTER: We're going to play Scramble. Here we go. Good ball. The real pressure comes from just trying to keep up with Steve on all the smack talk. A little heavy.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Caught that one out of the tail feathers a hair.

MIKE SCHULTER: Come on, George. Clearly that was an underwhelming shot. Wow. Good shot. Look at the spin.

MIKE WILLINGHAM: Coach put in a really good shot in there. It puts the pressure on Steve and I.

GEORGE KOURY: Look at the cutter.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Willy. Willy. Great shot, Willy. Bounce right, baby.

MIKE WILLINGHAM: OK, we got we got action. OK.

-My experiences with these matches is you jump on them.


STEVE ELKINGTON: Please go in.


STEVE ELKINGTON: Good putt, Willy. Hate to do this to these nice Air Force gentleman.

MIKE WILLINGHAM: Same as yours. I got that little splashy. Uh-oh. No. Oh, again.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Mike just redeemed himself. Boom, 25-footer right in the middle.

MIKE SCHULTER: It just went in the hole. Very unexpected that it did. Air Force goes one up.

-One up, baby.


-This is what I call taking family dining to a new level. 4,100 people all in one room. All attention, hear the announcements, listen, don't move. OK, let's eat. And then they're gone within 20 minutes back to class. 11 is the second hole of our Secret Smackdown. You guys are one up. He's recovered nicely after the dump truck action. So different with low altitude. The balls kind of got that. People have to know that the ball goes a lot further, something like 10% at least.

GEORGE KOURY: 10% from sea level.

STEVE ELKINGTON: In your mind, have you already done the math, dotted down to and you've picked what?

-I've got a hybrid here that I'm going to try to maybe cut in there, start at those bunkers and turn it right. Try to call my shot there and try to play a little Steve there.

STEVE ELKINGTON: He called it.

-I should have just tried to hit a straight ball right at the flag. And if I had, it would have been 15 feet for eagle.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Oh, it's come out funny. It's come out funny. Whoa, he got a little-- there's been change in the match, Willy. Something just happened.

MIKE SCHULTER: I got there.

GEORGE KOURY: Just got to get it out and on the green and it'll go down and to the right.

MIKE SCHULTER: No carry or anything. Just get it--

-Just cover the fringe, you're good.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Could be all right. There you go. Oh, Willy, I see an opening. I see an opening. That's not bad.

MIKE WILLINGHAM: Got to go. It's got a chance.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Get out of here. This is where you get these real technical guys, the Air Force guys, when they really start to think. No. No. One down. One down.


-He putts like Ben Crenshaw or something, this guy.

No. All square. The civilians are making a comeback. So we're at the Air Force Academy falconry center. I'm really into this, and it's the coolest mascot probably left in the United States, right?

-Of course.

-Essentially almost the symbol of freedom for this country.

-And air power.

-Air power.

-Air power.

-This is Aurora. She's the official mascot of the Air Force Academy. Her sole job is to really just look pretty and she does a pretty good job at doing it.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Yes, she does. And you were telling me these birds will not fly unless they're hungry. And they're weighed before they fly.

-Yes, sir.

-And you know that he's underweight. And he wants to fly right now, doesn't he?

-Yes, sire. He's his perfect weight for flying.

STEVE ELKINGTON: They have their own flight style.

-Yes, sir.

-Are we going to do that right now?

-Yes, sir.

-Are we going to make a long circle?

-Yes sir.

-OK. Are you guys ready? That was one of the things that I was looking forward to the most coming up here because I've always studied birds. And birds of prey have always been a great interest.

-So he's getting his treat now.

-Got your food with you?

-Yeah. He's hungry.

-Oh, yeah.

-So he's doing his mantling. He has his wings out, protecting it from other birds.

STEVE ELKINGTON: So we're going to watch this bird hit the bag, is that right?

SPEAKER 2: Yeah. Here goes the catch right here. Oh, parachute.

STEVE ELKINGTON: What sense are they using, do they smell, or?

SPEAKER 2: Eyesight.


SPEAKER 2: So their smell is almost nonexistent.

STEVE ELKINGTON: If I ever went here, you can earn your way on to the falconry team, whatever, I'd be trying to get on the falconry team.

-Steve was appropriately dressed.

-Nice gym you guys got here.

MIKE SCHULTER: I think that the guys that he worked out with really enjoyed his enthusiasm for getting his sweat on.

STEVE ELKINGTON: Come on. Let's do this. So I thought I'd go and work out with the boys a little bit. Do my old school stretching routine.

MIKE WILLINGHAM: He was able to go in there and give us a glimpse of what the cadets are doing. And those guys are pumping up a few hundred pounds of iron.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I'll do 100 next. After you do that, I'll do 100. All the weights and everything I think might mess up my swing, so I thought I'd just go in there and do a little aerobics, if you will. We call this the kangaroo.

MIKE WILLINGHAM: Actually, probably the most interesting part was to have somebody, you know, a celebrity like Steve in there, who wanted to give them time and see what they were doing on a daily basis.

-Hey, I was feeling the thunder. I'm not used to the altitude. How long did it take you to get used to the altitude? A couple weeks?

-A couple days.

STEVE ELKINGTON: This is the third hole of the Secret Smackdown. We are all square. And we have chosen the 17th hole, par 3. Willy. Let's get the one we wanted. OK.

MIKE WILLINGHAM: Good ball, Elk. Very nice.

STEVE ELKINGTON: OK. I'll take that one. Oh, Mike.

MIKE WILLINGHAM: That's a nice swing there. I think your lesson may have worked too well. Wow. Good shot. Coach is not to be outdone, is he?

STEVE ELKINGTON: That's a hole in one.

MIKE WILLINGHAM: Look at this. Uh-oh. There's a chance. Oh. Wow. So sad. Boom.

GEORGE KOURY: It's his show, so he was allowed to celebrate a little hard. But I do think it was a little excessive. If it was the NFL, he definitely would have been flagged.

-Yeah, I know. It was very mature. Oh.

STEVE ELKINGTON: What the heck was that? Excuse me? Was that the 380? It went in and went all the way around. Oh. Oh, the boys from Texas. I'm a lucky partner. Coach, thank you. Willy.

MIKE WILLINGHAM: I'm going to take the trophy back to Texas with us.

-Coming into the show was all about the rules of the Air Force and all that. But now at the end of the show, I feel like what we got out of this show was camaraderie. This was about being with the guys from different walks of life, and we're all together and we're all feeling good and we're playing golf. The loser has to wear my outfit that I worked out in yesterday to work out in.

GEORGE KOURY: Has it been laundered?

-There's millions of those foursomes all over the place. And we're right here at this great course that they can come see. And I think they should, because if they're coming through Colorado Springs, you can go up on that campus. There's public entrance to that campus. I didn't know that until this week. So that's cool. And then I think they should come down here and have a game of golf at Eisenhower Golf Club on the blue.

But the one thing that stood out to me the most is how dear the flag is to them. The way they fold it and the way they hand it off and they got it right there, and it's so coveted, so protected. And it was just a moment for me that I won't forget, just because I was so close to it. I was standing right in front of it. I mean, I have respect for the flag up or down every day anyway. But this really brought it home that this meant a lot to me right here, that move right there at the end. Mike, thank you for the idea of bringing me here. 1990 graduate. Mike, thank you very much.

-Enjoyed every second of it.

-There's only one other thing we can say, and that's God bless America.

-I agree.

-And these young men and women that are protecting us.


NARRATOR: On another episode of Secret Golf. In an old mining town with a unique past, Elk settles in with the locals.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I got into town a bit earlier and I ran smack bang into their sort of super fun group talking about what they're doing up here to re-establish this property.

SPEAKER 3: We're fortunate to see this area that was once, you know, polluted with those contaminants to be such an amazing habitat for wildlife and for people to recreate.

NARRATOR: A place with a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course with a most unique feature.

-I've got to go in the slag. I've got to go hit a shot. I've got to make a report to these people, what is it all about the black bunkers.

NARRATOR: And casts with a different kind of stick.

STEVE ELKINGTON: I think there is some similarities between golf and fly fishing. There is that change of directions that has to be done. No matter what anyone does, the swing goes up and comes back.

NARRATOR: Secret Golf with Steve Elkington has been a presentation of Secret Golf, Incorporated.