Memorial Day Means a Lot Moore for Four-Ball Competitor May 28, 2017 | Village of Pinehurst, N.C. By Bill Fields

Patrick Moore has fond memories of his late grandfather, Col. Richard Moore, while playing Pinehurst this Memorial Day weekend. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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When Pat Moore was a boy, he once said “Happy Memorial Day” to his grandfather, Richard, and was quickly corrected.

“This isn’t your holiday and it isn’t my holiday,” U.S. Air Force Col. Richard Moore said, telling his grandson that the occasion was to honor those killed while serving the country in the armed forces, including some colleagues who saw action with him as a pilot during the Vietnam War, which claimed 58,220 American lives.

“He would never say so, but I think it was a tough holiday for him,” said Pat Moore. “It was very high-risk stuff he did over there. Several of his friends and fellow pilots were shot down and didn’t come home. Others were rescued, and some became POWs (prisoners of war). It was really stressful.”

Col. Moore was one the fortunate airmen, surviving his F-105 fighter-bomber missions in southeast Asia. He later became a longtime flight instructor overseas and at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona before retiring. He died of cancer at age 83 late in 2014 and was buried with full military honors on March 18, 2015 in Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery.

Pat Moore, 34, of Phoenix, Ariz., is teaming with Jeff Fujimoto, 43, in the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club over Memorial Day weekend. They opened stroke play with an even-par 70 on Course No. 2.

Moore has a lot of memories of his grandfather, a Michigan State graduate who joined the Air Force shortly after being in the ROTC program on the East Lansing, Mich., campus. “They told him they needed pilots and he said, ‘Sign me up,’ ” Pat recalled. “He couldn’t pass the eye exam at first but finagled his way through it, and the rest was history.”

Much of that history was unspoken to Pat or other relatives. As with many veterans,  Richard Moore was reluctant to talk much about his war experiences. The F-105, the biggest single-seat, single-engine combat airfcraft ever manufactured, was used on many bombing missions in Vietnam, and nearly 400 planes were lost during the conflict. 

Col. Richard Moore performed many bombing missions during the Vietnam War and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in 2014. (Patrick Moore)

“They’d come in low, drop the bombs and leave because it wasn’t the fastest or most manueverable plane,” Pat said of the F-105 Thunderchief, which was also known as the Thud. “My grandpa was so proud of what he did, but I don’t think he wanted to share what he saw or went through. He was a true military man.”

Later in his life, Richard Moore and his wife, Nancy, became well known for crafting detailed wooden Santa Claus figures. Col. Moore stayed in contact with the military. “To the day he died, he would go back to visit his fighter squadron at Luke Air Force base,” Pat said. “He’d go back once a month on Friday’s for beer call and talk with the current pilots.”

Col. Moore was a squash enthusiast, not a golfer. He watched Pat compete in one event when he played at Arizona State. No doubt, though, he would have gotten a kick out of his grandson’s performance during the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Winged Foot’s East Course, where Pat aced the sixth hole.

“That is a funky green with a steep backstop,” Pat said. “It was 187 yards and I was between a 6- and 7-iron. I hit the 6-iron and it rolled back into the hole. We couldn’t see it go in, but somebody up at the green started screaming.”

Pat accompanied other family members two years ago for his grandfather’s burial at Arlington National Cemetery. “Going there and seeing that happen, seeing the burial process was really powerful,” Pat said. “I can’t imagine a cooler way to go out, especially for a guy like him who was so proud of his military career. The Air Force band was playing, and there was a horse drawn caisson to his plot. It’s right off the side of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and looks down on the Pentagon.”

And this weekend, Col. Richard Moore is surely looking down on his grandson at Pinehurst.

Bill Fields is a Connecticut-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.

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