THOMPSON TEES OFF: The Spirit of America lives on - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

THOMPSON TEES OFF: The Spirit of America lives on

BIRMINGHAM, AL -

What better day to write a preview of the Spirit of America golf tournament than July 4, with this year's Spirit beginning today at Burningtree Country Club.

The Spirit of America Festival began in 1966.  It was started at Point Mallard by Barrett Shelton Jr., and Decatur City leaders to show support for our troops during the Vietnam War.  

In 1967 Burningtree Country Club members Tom Edgil and Don Kincaid decided to hold a golf tournament at the same time to also show support for our troops. From there it evolved into one of the premier amateur golf tournaments in the country. The 43rd Classic continues to honor servicemen and servicewomen who have returned from active duty. 

Tournament officials added a Collegiate Championship in 1970 and a Junior Championship in 1985.  The Junior Champion is now designated as the Bradley Johnson Memorial Junior Champion in honor of Bradley Johnson, the 2005 Junior Champion, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident the following year.

The tournament continues to lure some of the top college players, as well as an influx of strong international golfers. Tournament organizers strive to attract many top amateurs from all across the country. Participation is limited to the 150 lowest handicaps of those applying for entry. Sanctioned by the Alabama Golf Association as a major event, the event offers 150 player points to the champion. This year's winner will also win a berth into a 2013 NGA Tour (mini-tour) event.

The tournament's past fields, rich with history, read like a who's who in golf.  Current PGA Tour professionals Stewart Cink, Heath Slocum and Carl Pettersson; former PGA Tour winner Spike McRoy and the Champions Tour's Andy Bean teed it up in the Spirit before joining the pro ranks. 

An army of tireless volunteers help give the tournament the high stature it possesses today.  Some of these volunteers have served more than 25 years and continue to do so with enthusiasm for each year's event. 

The 2013 tournament promises to deliver on the rich history of the Spirit of America Classic and provide a memorable event.  This year donations are to be made to PACT, Parents and Children Together, and Semper Fi Community Task Force.  

Click here for much more information on the Spirit of America, including live scoring.

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