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Local golfers win US Military Golf Championship

By LAURA QUEZADA  News Review Staff Writer–         Burroughs graduate Peter Lager and longtime resident Bobby Daniels walked away with first place in the United States Military Golf Championship (USMGC) – Two-man Scramble at Soboba Springs Golf Course in San Jacinto, California, on February 24.

Co-founder Martin Torres and his best friend from the Marine Corps, Antony Altemoos, founded USMGC in 2020. They both struggled with what Torres calls “mental health issues.” Torres says, “He got me into golf and that’s one of the techniques that I use to help me cope with some of the issues. We couldn’t find any other type of tournament where we could play together as a team to build more community, build our friendships, and enjoy the game of golf. So we started this together to provide opportunity and experience for others.”

Golfers Peter Lager (Left) and Bobby Daniels (Right) partnered to win the Two-Man Scramble. / Courtesy Photo

Daniels and Lager praise golf as being a lifetime competitive sport. “ I can go on the golf course and still get competitive juices flowing. You can do that in golf until you can’t walk anymore,” says Lager. When you are “playing golf, all you’re worried about is playing golf,” says Torres. “You’re not really worried about all the stressors in life, the past stressors, the memories, stuff that brings you down daily. You’re just out there with a friend, trying to make the ball go in the hole. It’s therapeutic, and that’s how I use it, and that’s what we try to provide for people that are coming to our tournaments.”

USMGC has held eight tournaments so far. The organization also sponsors golf teams to play in the US Amateur Tour. If a veteran has never played golf, they have a program called Alpha One Sponsorship. Once accepted, free lessons and used golf clubs are provided. When the new golfer is ready, their tournament entry fees are covered. Their website provides all of the necessary information: usgmc. golf. They are also on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Bobby Daniels and his wife, Ridgecrest native Lauranna Christman Daniels, own Daniel’s Deep Tine, LLC, which contracts all over Southern California to maintain golf courses and sports fields. Daniels tells us that he and Lager have been winning tournaments, including the Bakersfield Summer Open and the Bakersfield Winter Open. “But golf is also humbling,” he says. “We went there last week, back to Bakersfield and we got our a**es kicked. But we work hard at our golf. We both work out, diet, practice a couple of times a week, and try to play on Saturday in a game somewhere. One of the reasons why we do this is we played sports our whole lives. And at this point, we’re still really good competitors, but it’s pretty much limited to golf.”

The Soboda Band Luiseno Indians own Soboda Springs Golf Course. Two 6’4” Native Americans played the 18-hole tournament with Daniels and Lager. To make it “interesting,” they had a $20 bet. Daniels says, “When we asked them for a bet they looked at us and the vibe I got was ‘Really? I don’t think you guys want to bet with us.’” After all, these big guys play on the Native American Golf Tour and they “bombed the ball an ungodly distance. After four holes, they were three shots ahead of us. And then, on our fifth hole, this kid knocks it in there two feet away from the hole. He turns, he looks at us and he goes, ‘You want to pay us now?’ And we just go, ‘Don’t jinx yourself, bro.’  And then Petey steps up there and knocks it in the hole for a hole-in-one. And then we made seven birdies in the next 10 holes.” For the unfamiliar, a birdie is one under par, which is the predetermined number of strokes that a golfer should require to complete a hole. The big guys ended up coming in third.

In his acceptance speech, Lager said he was representing the China Lake Ranges. This writer thought he meant the golf course driving range, but she was wrong. “I work for the Department of Defense Ranges, where we do all the research, development and test and evaluation tests. We test weapons systems out of those mountains. So every time I hear a boom, that’s my guy or guys doing stuff.” However, he did work at the golf course right out of high school for five years.

“I care a lot about our golf course here,” says Lager. “It was a great club, and it has the potential to be a great club again. But the earthquake we had pretty much decimated the irrigation system. So they ended up closing nine holes. So now it’s only an eight-hole course. The government locking down the base for COVID and restricting access to civilians really hurt the golf course; they don’t have any customers now, so they don’t have money for upkeep. But there are plans in the works to get civilians access to the golf course again. Fix the golf course up, open up the back nine, and have 18 holes again, so I’m optimistic that it can become the type of club it used to be.”

“The first time I ever came here was to play in a Golden League Golf Tournament at China Lake when I was 14,” adds Daniels. “I loved it so much when I was playing out there I said,  ‘When I grow up I want to join a club just like this’. It just so happened that I did and was a member there for 30 years but I can’t get on Base right now.  I’ll wait till it opens back up again.”

There is also praise for the Burroughs Golf Team. Lager says, “Dave Sappington and Jesse Drake are the coaches. They have a good golf program. Our golf course offers free Junior clinics in the summer where they teach all the kids how to hit the golf ball. I used to run them when I worked out there 20 years ago. You could call the golf course, which is 760-939-2990, and they could tell parents how to get their kids involved.”

It turns out that Lager is more than a golfer. He is also a local rock star and an author. He sings with the Barstool Saints and records with diverse musicians. You can catch his amazing vocals on YouTube in a song called “The Fray.” As a father of an autistic child, he wrote “The Parent’s Guide to Raising a Child with Autism” under the pen name of Lily Ireland. “I remember back when my son was first diagnosed, I didn’t know anything about autism. I was shocked that my son wasn’t perfect, right? Like most parents are at that point. When I compiled all my ideas to create the book outline, I wondered what I would have wanted to know when I first got that diagnosis. There wasn’t much available when I started Googling everything (12 years ago), so that’s basically what the book is. It is pointed at a parent who’s just got their kids’ diagnosis and they’re like, ‘Oh, what do I do? What do I need to know?’” The book is available on Amazon. Regarding his pen name, “The majority of people who are going to be buying this book are women. They are mothers.  I wrote it from a mother’s perspective, my perspective. My wife had a lot of input.”

Before we leave, Daniels wants to say he hopes that more local golfers will be represented at the USMGC next year. “You know, we’re a military town, a military base. We should be well-represented.”