Mayer brings Folds of Honor Military Tribute Program to Princeton
Princeton’s Jake Mayer may only be a sophomore, but he is already stepping into a leadership role.
His 11th-place finish at the Georgetown Intercollegiate proved to be crucial in helping Princeton to its first tournament win in three years.
However, his biggest impact is coming off the golf course.
Mayer was at a tournament in high school when he first heard of the Folds of Honor Military Tribute Program.
The program gives high school or collegiate golf teams the opportunity to honor a fallen or wounded American soldier by having a team member carry a golf bag displaying the name, rank, and branch of service of the soldier being honored. The bag also holds a card telling the story of the soldier.
After doing some research, Mayer and his coach at The Pingry School in New Jersey chose to honor a Vietnam War veteran who graduated from the school and whose family still attended the school. Mayer said the whole experience had a huge impact on him.
"I was younger and more naïve to the impact that war leaves on people and their families," said Mayer. "As much as we try to always honor our military and put things in perspective we tend to forget about those things."
The program he started at Pingry continues to this day. Three years later, Mayer hopes to see the Military Tribute Program impact his teammates at Princeton in the same way that it impacted him.
"So far it’s been great. Everyone on our team got on board with it," said Mayer. "Everyone who has used the bag has had this new-found appreciation of golf and where golf falls in the grand scheme of things."
The bag honoring Lt. Wilton Stroud Pyle, a 1968 Princeton graduate.
This summer, he contacted the Princeton Alumni Veterans Committee, who suggested the team honor Wilton Stroud Pyle. Pyle was a 1968 graduate of Princeton who volunteered for the Marine Corps and earned the rank of Second Lieutenant. He died while serving in May 1969 in Vietnam. Mayer personally reached out to the brother of Lieutenant Pyle to get his permission to honor his brother.
In a Princeton Alumni Weekly memorial dedicated to him, Pyle was described as "energetic and fun-loving" as well as "sensitive, quiet, and reflective." It is that legacy at Princeton that Mayer and his teammates hope to honor by not only carrying his bag but holding themselves to a higher standard.
"The leadership on the team has respected the bag as much as we can and talking to freshman, giving them a sense of what it means to not only be a part of Princeton golf but to be carrying the name of a man who gave his life for his country,” said Mayer. “Obviously it would be great if you held yourself to a higher standard every time but when you have that bag on you it should be a completely different story."
Founded in 2007, the Folds of Honor Foundation utilizes scholarships and other means to give back to the spouses and children of soldiers killed or disabled in service to our country. It awarded over $8 million in scholarships in 2016.
As they head into their spring season, Mayer and his teammates will be responsible for fundraising for the bag. At the end of their season, the bag is auctioned off with all of the proceeds going to the Folds of Honor Foundation.
"We just finished up our fall campaign at Georgetown and we actually won the event which was our program’s first win in three years. So definitely some good things happening, maybe it’s the bag. I like to think it is," said Mayer. “We are excited to get back out there in the spring. Try and come up with some creative ways to fundraise."
Princeton golf hopes to carry their momentum and good karma into the spring season as the team strives to win its first Ivy League Championship since 2013.
William Soulé is a senior pursuing degrees in journalism and sports management at the University of Oklahoma. He started working for the Golf Coaches Association of America in January of 2017 as a John Reis Intern. He also works for OU Nightly and Soonerthon at the university. He is a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He expects to graduate in the Spring of 2020.