Colin Montgomerie will this week make a sporting dream come true for a war veteran he met while visiting frontline troops in Afghanistan last year.
Europe’s last Ryder Cup Captain lightly remarked during his visit to Camp Bastion in Helmand Province that Captain Jason Griffiths would make a handy playing partner in a Pro-Am due to his 12 handicap.
And now Griffiths will tee off alongside the Scot on Wednesday at Celtic Manor, two days after his 40th birthday, in the Pro-Am at the ISPS Handa Wales Open.
“I know I will be nervous standing on the first tee with a golfer who has won so many big tournaments and been a European Ryder Cup star and Captain, but I also know I am going to enjoy the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Griffiths.
“I thought just having the chance to chat to him over lunch when he came to Camp Bastion and then having a golf lesson from him on our makeshift driving range were memories that I knew I would treasure for a lifetime because he’s such a great bloke.
“Now to actually play with him in a pro-am is going to be the best birthday present I could have had.”
Griffiths will be playing with Montgomerie on the course where Europe recorded a famous victory over America to win The Ryder Cup in 2010.
When told who his playing partner would be Montgomerie was just as enthusiastic to meet up with Griffiths again.
"He certainly looked as though he can play the game,” said Montgomerie. “It’s going to be fun having him as my Pro-Am partner at Celtic Manor where, of course, I have so many happy memories of our Ryder Cup win over the Americans in 2010.
“It’s fantastic that I have now got the chance to return the welcome that Griff made me feel out there. I'll never forget my visit to Camp Bastion to see the conditions under which our soldiers have to work out there in Afghanistan. It’s tough and they are all heroes.”
Griffiths had his troops make some cufflinks for Montgomerie out of used cartridge shells which the 48 year old had fired from a pistol during his visit to Afghanistan, and Griffiths was quick to credit Monty with what a positive impact his visit had on his men.
“For him to come to Afghanistan in the first place was a great gesture, but the way he mixed and chatted with the troops lifted the spirits of everyone who met him.” said Griffiths.
“It’s never easy for soldiers to be away from their families for months in a war zone but meeting Monty cheered a lot of people up.”
Despite admitting to having not hit a golf ball for at least a year when he last saw Monty, Griffiths is confident of performing well in Wales.
He said: “Since being told I would be playing with him at Celtic Manor I have been practicing whenever I have been able to get the spare time.”
In 23 years’ service to the British Army, Griffiths has also served in Bosnia and Iran and recently received a commendation for his work in Afghanistan.
Montgomerie was full of praise not just for Griffiths but for all the troops he saw in Helmand Province.
“To have the chance of giving him a great day out is brilliant. All our soldiers fighting in the Afghan war deserve to be treated like heroes," he said.
Reproduced with thanks to Graham Otway