OWASSO — Rickie Fowler was introduced to Major Dan Rooney by former Oklahoma State golf coach Mike McGraw. Fowler and Rooney formed a bond that will last a lifetime.
Fowler has played in Rooney’s Patriot Cup golf tournament the first five years. Folds of Honor is based at Patriot Golf Club, an organization that raises money for scholarships of military members injured or killed while serving their country.
One of Fowler’s favorite memories with Rooney was three years ago when Colonel Scott Brooks, one of Rooney’s friends, gave Fowler a ride in an F-16 jet.
“We’ve done a lot of fun stuff, but that day was special,” Fowler said. “To get to fly in an F-16 and spend a couple of hours at his house with his family baking cookies was one of those fun days you never forget.”
For his efforts supporting Fold of Honors, Fowler received the Corporal Brock Bucklin award at Sunday night’s pre-tournament banquet.
“There are so many people that are more deserving or as deserving,” Fowler said. “For Dan to see that in me, it’s a pretty special honor.”
Folds of Honor has raised more than $38 million and has awarded more than 5,000 scholarships.
“Folds of Honor is doing something great,” Fowler said. “A lot of players show up from the PGA Tour and Champions Tour. The reason they keep coming back is they see how great this organization is and believe in what Dan believes in.”
Fowler, 25, already has earned nearly $12 million on the PGA Tour since he turned pro five years ago. He was the 2010 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.
He owns only one PGA Tour win – the 2012 Wells Fargo Invitational in Charlotte, N.C. – but he has posted 26 career top-10 finishes. He also won the 2010 Kolon Korean Open on the Asian Tour.
Earlier this year, Fowler notched his best finish in a major. He finished fifth at The Masters, matching a fifth-place finish at the 2011 British Open.
“That was a good week (at The Masters), but other than that it’s been an up-and-down year,” Fowler said. “Last year, I started working with Butch Harmon. I like the direction we’re heading.
“My game definitely feels a lot better than has shown in the results. These will be a couple of big weeks — the Memorial, then Memphis to get ready for the U.S. Open.”
It was no surprise Fowler had the largest gallery at Monday’s annual Patriot Cup, but he also has one of the largest galleries at most PGA Tour stops.
His clothes’ line through Puma has made Fowler one of the most popular golfers among the younger generation.
“It’s awesome,” Fowler said. “They show up regardless what city we’re playing. It’s great the support I get, especially the young kids. It’s pretty cool to walk down each hole to see all the support I have outside the ropes, whether I’m playing good or bad. It’s humbling.”
Fowler said a video at Sunday night’s gala portrayed stories of military members who died or injured while serving.
“It’s amazing to see all the scholarships through Dan’s foundation and the number of kids getting put through college,” Fowler said. “To be able to do something like this for families of fallen soldiers is a cause everyone believes in.”
Fowler said he plans to play in the Patriot Cup every year.
“This event is a reminder of what Memorial Day is all about,” Fowler said. “I think sometimes it goes unappreciated a little bit by many U.S. citizens, not knowing the real meaning of Memorial Day.
“To be around military members, to see how much this day means to them, it really opens your eyes. I know I appreciate it more, the sacrifices they make. As Major Dan says, ‘Freedom isn’t free.’”