Arizona Golf Course Steps “Back to the Future” at Wigwam Golf Resort

Patriot Golf Course Honors the Past as the Wigwam Golf Resort Steps Boldly into the Future

From the Arizona Golf Authority Golf Course News Desk

Litchfield Park, AZ – The Wigwam Resort dedicated the first hole of its Patriot Golf Course (formerly the Blue Course) in honor of Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr. today, the World War I flying ace immortalized throughout flying-circles as “The Arizona Balloon Buster.”

Lieutenant Frank Luke Jr. Plaque "Arizona Balloon Buster"

Plaque on 1st Tee - Wigwam Golf Resort Patriot Course

During the dedication ceremony held today at the Wigwam Golf Resort, complete with the U.S. Air Force Color Guard from nearby Luke Air Force base, Jerry Colangelo spoke on behalf of his company and Wigwam owners, JDM Partners, to highlight the group’s choice of Lt. Luke as the first honoree.

“We considered many Arizona candidates and Lt. Frank Luke, Jr.’s patriotic service was clearly at the top of the list. Recognition of his remarkable destruction of 14 observation balloons and 4 aircraft, and his subsequent supreme sacrifice for our country, well, that’s the courage, bravery and patriotism we want to honor and celebrate with our Patriot Golf Course.”

Don Luke, nephew of the fighter ace honoree, brought the reality of Lt. Luke’s bravery out of the hazy history books into the bright light of present day in his remarks to the assembled crowd; most will not look at a balloon aloft in the same way, ever again.

“A lot of folks know that Luke Air Force Base, just down the street from here, is named in honor of my uncle, but few ever ask why. It’s because he was the first pilot to summon the courage to target, attack and destroy the heavily defended ‘eyes of the enemy’ which were their observation balloons.”

German Observation Balloon - World War I circa 1918

Don reminded the assembly that in 1918 World War I enemy personnel climbed into baskets suspended from balloons tethered to the ground and were then raised to float 2,000-feet above the battlefield. From their lofty perch, they reported on U.S. troop movement and adjusted cannon firing-coordinates to pinpoint the U.S. soldier’s trenches.

“My uncle was at the front lines and learned those balloons struck cold, abject fear in our boys when they saw them being raised. Our troops knew those balloons were the eyes the enemy used to find them with their cannon fire. He decided to fly in and shoot them down.”

In spite of the enemy aircraft circling the balloons, guarding them from above, and artillery cannon units on the ground keeping a sharp lookout for low-flying aircraft below, Lt. Luke attacked and destroyed 14 of them, as well as 4 enemy aircraft, during ten sorties flown on just eight days. Lt. Luke was killed in action by enemy ground troops September 29, 1918 when, after destroying three balloons, he was forced to land his damaged aircraft behind enemy lines.

“His only defense was the fading light of dusk, and getting the hydrogen inside the balloons to explode would take two or three passes,” Don shared. “After the first pass, they’d start pulling the balloon down so he had to fly closer and closer to those artillery guns on the ground to finish the job.”

That’s courage and bravery beyond the call of duty, especially when you consider the fabric covered bi-plane Lt. Luke piloted flew only 100 mph. in straight and level flight, and climbed at a rate of only 4 mph.

Lt. Luke was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and although he’s the first to be honored at the Patriot Course, it’s a good bet he won’t be the last.

Colangelo closed his remarks by noting, “Life is about relationships; with family, with friends, with your community. Renaming our Patriot Golf Course is one way we can put our company’s principle of ’Commitment to Community’ into action, and dedicating each of these 18-holes will refresh and refocus everyone’s attention on the honors fittingly bestowed upon our own Arizona patriots.”

Patriot Course #15

Par-3 15th - Patriot Course - Wigwam Golf Resort

Sometimes, past performance is good indication of the future. U.S. Olympic basketball, the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks have all flourished under Colangelo’s leadership and a recent multi-million dollar renovation indicates the Wigwam will as well.

The Wigwam Golf Resort is the only golf resort in Arizona with three championship golf courses: The Gold Course and the Patriot Course, both designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., and the Heritage Course, a Red Lawrence design formerly named the Red course.

Read the Arizona Golf Course Directory AZGA Golf Course Buzz for every golf course in Arizona at www.arizonagolfauthority.com/coursedirectory/.

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Wigwam Golf Resort Gold Course

Wigwam Golf Resort Patriot Course

Wigwam Golf Resort Heritage Course

It’s “All Things Arizona Golf” from the Arizona Golf Authority.

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