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It's More Than Just A Game

The Armed Forces Cup was created to reward those VGA members with the most participation throughout the VGA Tour season in a Ryder Cup styled match play championship between branches.

This year, our championship field consists of five service branch teams representing the top VGA points earners per branch per region. Each player’s selection is a testament to their dedication to the VGA, their service to our country, and their love of the game of golf.


The Veteran Golfers Association is dedicated to enriching the lives of Veterans and their family members through the sportsmanship and camaraderie of golf.

May 2024 26-29

Evans, GA 30809
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Meet The Players

Tim Oakley

Jeffery Manalansan

Robert Pearsall

Jeff Duncan

Brice Hedin

I enlisted in the US Coast Guard Dec 1976 in Fayetteville, NC. I attended Aviation Machinist Mate (AD) class A School in Elizabeth City, NC. Then Air Stations in Cape Cod Massachusetts, Corpus Christi, Texas, Astoria Oregon, then returned to Corpus Christi, Texas. I retired in June 1997 at USCG Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas.

Upon retirement I have work as an Aircraft Quality Assurance Inspector for McDonald Douglas Aircraft Company, Boeing Aircraft Company, in Kingsville, Texas and Meridian, Mississippi. Have worked for Raytheon Aerospace, L3 Communications, Vertex Aerospace and am currently with V2X at NAS Meridian under Navy Contract.

I joined the VGA in 2019 and play in as many VGA tournaments as I can. I love the game of golf. I have been able to play in 3 consecutive Armed Forces Cup tournaments for team Coast Guard. I am currently first in VGA points nationwide for the US Coast Guard Team have been for the last 3 years playing VGA tournaments. This year I have played in 6 states and have 49 tournaments in 2023 with 15 wins. I qualified to play the 2023 Senior Championship Nationals for the second year at Forest Creek in Pinehurst, NC. I have also been able to enlist 5 new members to join the VGA for 2023.

Bryce Krause

Danny Foster

Donald Prill

Gerald Burton

Specialist Gerald Burton lives in Winchester Virginia. Currently employed full time as senior management for a heavy highway construction company. Weekend activities include but not limited to VGA Golf, Owner/Operator of a dirt track race car.

Specialist Burton military journey began in 1992 and ended in 2009 serving in multiple branches with a several year break in service. He served in a variety of assignments including Infantry, Armor,Supply Specialist, and Seabee.

Specialist Burton deployed multiple times to Iraqi in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, The Liberation of Kuwait, Operation Brave Rifles and Operation Long Knife. Specialist Burton was injured in 2007 while on patrol when an IED hit his vehicle.

Specialist Burton has a degree in business management and also graduated from Phoenix State with a degree as a gunsmith.

Specialist Burton has found great pleasure over the past 2.5 years with the VGA, playing in 124 tournaments. The camaraderie and friendship made is forever embedded in my heart.

Specialist Burton had the honor of ARMY team captain AFC 2022 coming out as Champions. January 2022 Specialist Burton was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (bone cancer).

Specialist Burton is the proud father of three children and four grandchildren.

Keith Boyer

Nick Svoboda

Shaun Newman

Tim Wuchter

Tony Miller

Douglas Feist

Edward Shipley

Erik Lindebak

James Saddler

Jesse Schmidt

Lowell Crow

Ronald Russell

Tim Melecosky

Ty Ehlers

Adam Donahue

Daniel Bloomer

Howard Thurman

Master Sergeant (Retired) Howard Thurman is currently located in Crestview, Florida, working at Hurlburt Field AFB as an Air Simulation Instructor. He was born in the Great state of Mississippi on March 15, 1961, and graduated from Florence High School in 1979. He began his Air Force career at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas in July 1983, completing basic training in September 1983. While on active duty he completed tours in Korea, Iceland, Panama and Germany. He was deployed in support of Operation Southern Watch, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Desert Shield.

His military awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the Air Force Achievement Medal.

Member of the Big Brother and Sister organization

Master Sergeant Thurman has a bachelor’s in science from Troy University and a Master’s degree in Whistologly from World University.

Master Sergeant Thurman joined the Veteran Golfers Association in August 2021.

Master Sergeant Thurman is a proud father of two daughters ages 31 and 30. Jordan Thurman lives in Houston, TX and PO1 Monique Thurman lives in San Diego, California.

Jim Jakubowski

Justin Gamet

Phillip Ritchie

Phillip Ritchie joined the Greatest Air Force in the world in May of 1999. Most would agree it is also the best branch of service you could possibly join; others are just jealous they couldn’t get in. After spending a couple months in Texas for basic training and technical school to become an Electronic System Security Assessment Analyst, he was shipped off to Germany for his first assignment. A horrible experience filled full of strong European beer and trips throughout Europe. Just a few short years later the AF decide they needed his services in another hardship location and sent him to be stationed at Hickam AFB, HI., where he struggled to stay out of the constant rays of sunshine and avoided the greatest beaches in the world. After completing his second consecutive overseas tour, it was time to go back to the continental United States to be stationed at Scott AFB, IL., home of Air Mobility Command. A location where he was finally able to go to professional sporting events with the Saint Louis Rams, Cardinals, and Blues just down the road. Five years later he returned to his home state of California to be stationed at Vandenberg AFB, CA., just six hours away from family. Another miserable location on the beach with great weather most of the year and known for amazing wine. For his final assignment location, he was asked to go to the southernmost point of the continental united states, Key West, FL. A location where no one goes to party or have fun.

Technical Sergeant (TSgt) Phillip Ritchie retired from his Key West, FL assignment as an All-Source Intelligence Analyst in 2019 after 20 years of service. After retiring from the Air Force, he went on to be a contractor supporting the US Government on Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, NM. (Lots of sand, not really any beaches though)

TSgt Ritchie originally joined the VGA in 2018 to get a free T-Shirt, at that time living in Key West, FL there were no local VGA events to participate in. After moving to NM in 2019 and participating in his first VGA Event in June of that year he has been an active member of the VGA ever since. Over the past several years he has participated in events in five different states (NM, TX, AZ, NV, CO), two state championship events, two West Regional Championship events, two AFC Regional Qualifiers, and the 2021 Armed Forces Cup (AFC) in Pinehurst, NC.

His military awards and decorations include multiple AF Commendation medals, a Joint Service Achievement Medal, an AF Achievement Medal, a Navy Achievement Medal, an Iraq campaign medal, and an Afghanistan campaign medal.

426 Information Operations Squadron, Vogelweh Cantonment, DE (1999-2003)
352 Information Operations Squadron, Hickam AFB, HI (2003-2005)
67 Information Warfare Flight, Scott AFB, IL (2005-2009)
618 Tanker Airlift Control Center, Scott AFB, IL (2009-2010)

Scott Wiederholt

Terence Jacobs

W.D. Metheny

Ben Matthews

Chris Thielemann

Doug Gerwulf

Mac McCurry

Mike Binney

Michael Hendren

Michael Sullivan

Robert Ray

Troy Felder

Bill Rhoades

James Bellaire

Commander (retired) Jim Bellaire is a veteran with 33.5 years of active duty service. His love of golf comes from his father Gordy, who built Jim a set of clubs at the age of 8. From there he has dabbled in the game his entire life. Due to his military service as a member of the Polar Golf Association, Jim has been fortunate to play golf in many South American countries, the Antarctic, Australia, New Zealand, Figi and Hawaii.

Jim joined the Coast Guard at 18 years old. After attending boot camp in Cape May, New Jersey he was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter POLAR STAR. While on POLAR STAR as an E2 and E3 Jim traveled the world, going to both the Arctic and Antarctic. In 1984, as a member of POLAR STAR’s crew Jim worked the Los Angeles Olympic Games.

After Hospital Corpsman A school, Jim was assigned afloat and ashore eventually being one of the first 10 selectees to a new Coast Guard officer accession program that sent him back to college to finish his bachelor’s degree. At the 11 year mark, Jim attended Coast Guard Officer Candidate School in Yorktown, Virginia. After OCS Jim was assigned to various afloat and ashore assignments. Highlights include Executive Officer positions on 3 cutters, Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Cutter HOLLYHOCK. In addition to representing the Coast Guard as the Coast Guard Liaison to the US Ambassador to Haiti which required him to live in Port au Prince Haiti for a year.

Upon retirement in July 2017 after 33.5 years of active-duty service, Jim was offered a position as the contract Site Lead at the Coast Guard’s Maritime Law Enforcement Academy in Charleston, South Carolina. He has been in this position for 6 years. Leading an excellent team of 31 instructors and instructional technologists.

Throughout his life Jim has placed a lot of value in service to the community. He has worked as a volunteer with the American Red Cross, who highlighted him early in his career for his abilities to help whenever there was a need. Most recently he worked with the USO as a senior volunteer supervisor for the Kingsmill LPGA Championship golf tournament in Williamsburg, Virginia. Additionally, Jim is a member of full life member of the VFW and other civil society organizations.

Jim has been a member of the Veteran’s Golf Association for 3 years. During that time he has won 4 tournaments, qualified and played in the Senior National Tournament in 2002 and is honored to participate in this year’s Armed Forces Cup.

In 2008, Ambassador Janet Sanderson honored Jim with the award of the U.S. State Department’s Franklin Award. This award, very rarely awarded to military members, is named for Benjamin Franklin in honor of his distinguished service as a public servant and U.S. diplomat, recognizes the achievements of individuals in a variety of areas of importance to the Department.  Jim received this award in recognition of his teamwork and crisis management during the 2008 Haitian riots. 

His military honors and awards include, the Meritorious Service Medal, four Coast Guard Commendation metals with the Operational distinguishing device, three Coast Guard Achievement medals with the Operational distinguishing device, two Commandants Letter of Commendation ribbons with the Operational distinguishing device, three Coast Guard Team ribbons, five Coast Guard Good Conduct medals, the Arctic and Antarctic service medals, the Coast Guard foreign service medal, the Expert Rifle medal and Sharpshooter Pistol ribbon, in addition to many coveted unit awards.

Jim has earned a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Strayer University and a Master’s in Education degree from the University of West Florida.

Jim is a native of Detroit, Michigan. He has been married to Maryanne for 35 years. Jim and Maryanne have 3 grown children, all of which are married. Jim and Maryanne are the proud grandparents of 5 grandchildren and anticipate have a 6th that will be born around Christmas time.

Mark Tolles

Mathew Bailey

Mathew Bailey served in the United States Coast Guard for 20 years at which time he retired as a first class Boatswainsmate. Matt joined the USCG in 1996. His first tour of duty was on the CG Cutter Gallatin whose primary mission was drug interdiction across the Caribbean; other missions included touring Europe for 4 months to train the Coast Guard of multiple countries. In the years that followed Matt was stationed at various small boat stations across the east coast completing search and rescues, maritime law enforcement and federal fishery regulations. He served as Company Commander for 3 years at the recruit training center in Cape May as well later being chosen to teach at the Company Commander School on base training the drill instructors.

It should be noted Matt did earn the title of Coastguardsmen of the Year for a daring rescue off the coast of Atlantic City saving the life of an 8 y/o boy and the attempts to save the aunt’s life. This rescue would later be published in a book used as part of the training curriculum at the USCG training base.

Following retirement Matt decided to become a certified personal trainer and began work as personal trainer at a local gym. Through dedication and a hard work ethic he quickly advanced through the corporate ladder and become Operations Director of a well known health club. Matt missed the law enforcement side of his military background and returned to a federal job as Recreation Specialist at a local federal prison where he could combine his current civilian work detail with his military background.

Matt recently assumed the position of NJ State Director for the VGA. He lives in NJ with his wife of 20 years and has two sons – 18 and 16 years old.

Michael Bradshaw

Boatswains Mate First Class Michael W. Bradshaw served in the United States Coast Guard for 20 years retiring in October of 2020. Michael Joined the Coast Guard in 2000 straight out of high school from the small town of Hacksneck on Eastern Shore of Virginia.

After completing basic training in Cape May New Jersey, Michael went on to his first tour of duty located in Atlantic City, NJ. While stationed in Atlantic City Michael went on to get qualified to conduct Search and Rescue missions as a small boat operator, Law Enforcement and marine fisheries enforcement. Following Atlantic City Michael was sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to conduct security missions following the tragic events of 9/11. Petty Officer Bradshaw went on to complete 5 more tours of duty at various stations and ships across the United States.

It should be pointed out that Boatswain Mate First Class Bradshaw received numerous awards; to include the Coast Guard Commendation Medal, Coast Guard Achievement Medal and Army Achievement Medal.

The most notable for a daring rescue the night of November 15th 2014. Michael led a complex rescue off the North Carolina Coast while operating the 47 Motor Life Boat battling 15 to 20ft seas and winds in excess of 50 knots. Despite the complete loss of electronic navigation system on the 47MLB he demonstrated superior navigational skills and seamanship by rigging the vessel for tow transporting the three people on board back to safe harbor.

After retiring from the Coast Guard Michael returned working for the federal government onboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point located in Havelock, NC. He now enjoys his job working with aircraft, playing golf and his wonderful family Angie (wife) Reagan and Lana (2 daughters).

Michael Sparks

Steve Bates

Stu Stryker

Tyler Bowden

Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) Tyler Bowden is a dual-role Coast Guard member, currently serving as a drilling reservist at Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay in Philadelphia, PA, and as a full-time federal civilian at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC.

CWO Bowden’s career began in 2010 when he enlisted in the Coast Guard reserves and served for the first seven years on Active Duty fulfilling multiple contingency roles including Operation Deepwater Horizon (New Orleans Oil Spill), Operation Enduring Freedom (Guantanamo Bay), and multiple hurricane contingencies impacting the southeast US and Puerto Rico. In 2017, he transitioned back to reserve drill status (inactive duty). As a drilling reserve, he completed a four-year tour at Coast Guard Surface Forces Logistics Center, Mobile Support Unit, Baltimore, MD, and when promoted to CWO transferred to Philadelphia where he currently serves. His enlisted rating was Storekeeper and he was promoted to Finance and Supply Warrant Officer in April, 2022.

Tyler’s Coast Guard civilian career began in 2017 when he was hired into a budget analyst role at Coast Guard Command Control and Communications Service Center based out of Alexandria, VA. In 2019, Tyler was promoted into an appropriation manager and senior financial analyst position in the Office of Budget Execution under the CFO at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC, where he currently serves and plans to remain until retirement.

CWO Bowden is originally from West Palm Beach, FL and is married to and joined by Faviola (Perdomo) Bowden, also a Coast Guard reserve and civilian, of Houston, TX, and they currently reside in Quantico, VA. They have three children – Kyran (18), Mia (16) and Olivia (4). Tyler earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Purdue University in 2019 and has held certification as Defense Financial Manager since 2017.

CWO Bowden’s significant awards and achievements include two CG commendation medals, two achievement medals, global war on terror expeditionary medal, humanitarian service medal, military outstanding volunteer medal, and two Chief Financial Officer Awards for Excellence.