COON RAPIDS, Minn. — Jeff Locke played golf for nearly 15 hours on Friday, but his lasting memories from Bunker Hills Golf Club won't be a perfect shot or the numbers on his scorecard for his 85-hole outing.
The Vikings punter helped out Tee It Up for the Troops by participating in the "Longest Day of Golf for the Troops" for the third consecutive year. "Tee It Up for the Troops" puts on roughly 40 golf events each year, eight of which are held in Minnesota, to raise money for military veterans and their families.
"The best part of the day for me was being able to switch groups and interacting with the veterans," Locke said. "It was so much fun playing with them and hearing their stories of what "Tee It Up for the Troops" has done for them coming back from overseas or from their service.
"It always puts things in perspective and makes it worth it in the end," he added.
A total of 16 golfers teed off at the Coon Rapids course just before 6:45 a.m. on Friday, but only a foursome, including Locke, stayed past 9 p.m. due to wet weather.
Rain and lightning between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. didn't deter the group from continuing.
After Locke completed 70 holes last year, hisgoal this time around was 72. Locke reached that and more, completing nearly five rounds of golf in one day.
"We're very proud of that," Locke said. "We kind of all looked at each other at (hole No.) 72 … one of us drove the cart to the next tee box, and the others followed."
Locke has set up a fundraising page that is open until June 30. He has raised more than $2,200 so far but hopes to eclipse $4,000.
Locke said that anyone who donates $20 will be entered into a raffle to win a pair of tickets to a Vikings home game in 2016 in brand new U.S. Bank Stadium.
Tee It Up for the Troops is a cause near and dear to Locke, whose father, Bob, was an Air Force pilot for 20-plus years. Jeff Locke was born at a military hospital in Frankfurt, Germany, and has other military ties in his family.
"Jeff understands the service and sacrifice that goes into the military lifestyle," said Tim Wegscheid, the president of Tee It Up for the Troops. "It's important for us to have him here as a part of this.
"He's a great guy and has a big heart for serving our military families," he added.
As Locke mentioned, his most treasured memory was interacting with veterans.
Tim Ngo spent four years in the Army and suffered a severe head injury when a grenade exploded just 2 feet away from him in August of 2004.
Ngo, who lives in St. Paul, is a regular golfer at Tee It Up for the Troops events.
"Tee It Up for the Troops pretty much saved my life," said the 33-year-old who had six head surgeries. "They invited me out to one of their events … I love golfing so I figured I'd come out to one of their events.
"I love that there's an organization out there that reaches out to the veterans and gets them to do something that they love," he added.
Derek Goodridge lost his right arm in Iraq in February of 2011 when an IED exploded near him.
Goodridge, who spent time golfing with Locke at last year's event, praised Tee It Up for the Troops for their generosity and support.
"They've made a great impact on my life," Goodridge said. "They give me the opportunity to come out here and golf.
"To me, golf is my rehab," he added. "It gets my mind off of everything else."
Veterans said they enjoyed the chance to chat with Locke, who said the group had some heartfelt conversations on the course.
Ngo said he's grateful that Locke shows so much support for veterans and their families.
"He doesn't do it for the fame," Ngo said. "He does it because he knows that if it wasn't for the men and women that serve this country, we wouldn't have the freedoms we have."
Locke was expectedly sore after playing 85 holes and said he planned to rest up before the Vikings begin training camp next month in Mankato.
Besides, Locke said, a sore back is a paltry comparison to the sacrifices made by veterans.
"We're talking three days of being sore," Locke said. "Some of these guys have given more than you can even imagine."