IMA leads on the links, wins sixth international gold medal

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Timm Huffman
  • HQ RIO Public Affairs
For most, a day on the links is a way to pass the time. For Maj. Linda Jeffery, her passion for golf builds diplomatic relationships with foreign militaries.

Jeffery, an individual mobilization augmentee to the Air Force Pacific Command's exercise division, is a long-time member of the U.S. Armed Forces Golf Team and recently returned from her sixth Conseil International du Sport Militaire World Military Golf Championship.

She has won gold six times.

But the win is not what's important to her in a golf tournament where 15 different militaries are represented. She says it's all about building relationships with other countries.

"My job [on the Armed Force Golf Team] is to be an ambassador and build allies," she said.

Winning the 8th annual CISM golf tournament, which was held in the Kingdom of Bahrain, Nov. 13-21, was no easy task. In order to play for the Armed Forces team, the only non-Olympic team which can officially be called Team USA, she first had to earn a spot on the Air Force golf team. After that, she had to compete against the other service teams in the Armed Forces Golf Championship, held at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, Nov. 5-10.

"I always find it challenging to play in the Armed Forces Golf Tournament because the competition is tough and only two women get to go on to the international competition," she said.

She said the Navy's golf team is particularly good. But, while the Navy's women did take gold in the team event, Jeffery shot 306 strokes, earning herself an individual gold medal and a spot on the Armed Forces team.

To prepare herself for this level of competition, Jeffery, who is an elementary school teacher by day, hones her golf skills after hours and on the weekends as an amateur. During the spring and summer, she spends nine to 15 hours a week on the links. To really fine-tune her skills, she prefers competitive practice rounds.

"You want practice to be like competition so that competition feels like practice," she said.

And while she doesn't visit the driving range, she will force herself to spend up to an hour at a time practicing putting on the green.

Jeffery's golfing career started long before she began competing in military competitions. She took up golfing in high school, where she became the top golfer by her sophomore year. She continued playing at Hardin-Simmons University and was named an All-American athlete. Following her studies, she spent time as a professional golf instructor.

Once she secured her spot on the Armed Forces women's golf team, she was off to the four-day CISM tournament the following week. This year's tournament had teams from Thailand, Germany, South Africa, Canada, Uganda, Botswana and Namibia. Despite the various nationalities, the love for golf served as a universal language, said Jeffery.

This year's international military tournament was held on a challenging course in the desert. The 18-hole course was wide open and presented plenty of opportunities for lost balls and less than favorable playing surface.

"If you were off the maintained grass, you were playing on dirt and the ball acts a lot different, "said Jeffery. "It makes it more difficult."

Despite these difficulties, the IMA excelled, shooting an average of 1 over par each day, netting her the gold medal in the women's individual category.  Along with the Navy's Johnson, Jeffery also secured gold in the women's team competition - her sixth in that category as well.

As a long-time member of the Armed Forces team, Jeffery takes a leadership role on the team, which features many new faces each year. She reminds them that the point of the competition is to build esprit de corps with military allies and encourages her team mates to get to know the other athletes.

"I tell the guys and gals, 'yes you want to win, but the real role is to build relationships and make friends through sport,'" she said.

When she's not taking the lead in military tournaments, she plays in the U.S. Golf Association Mid-Amateur league. According to the USGA Mid-Am webpage, the league is "for amateur golfers of at least 25 years of age and provides a formal national championship for the post-college amateur." She recently made it to the third round of the Mid-Am Championship, which featured the top 16 amateur golfers. She has also represented her home state of Alabama in the USGA's state event and, in September, she qualified to play in a new event - the 2015 USGA Amateur Four-Ball Women's Championship.

Her victory at CISM closed out three grueling weeks of back-to-back military golf tournaments. She said that the pressure of going from the Air Force championship, to the Armed Forces championship, to the CISM championship builds up and is draining, not just on her, but also her family. And while she's glad for a break, she also takes great pride in representing the red, white and blue out on the green.

"Representing the USA as a military member is something I'm extremely proud of," she said. "However, representing our country as an official military member on Team USA is a feeling that very few people ever experience. Hearing the Star Spangled Banner being played while on the award podium because of both my individual and team efforts is an overwhelming feeling of joy and pride."

IMAs are Air Force Reservists assigned to active-duty units and government agencies. They are managed by Headquarters Individual Reservist Readiness and Integration Organization, located at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, and serve over 50 separate major commands, combatant commands and government agencies.

Unlike traditional Reservists, who are assigned to Reserve units that regularly perform duty together, IMAs work with their active-duty supervisors to create a custom duty schedule that helps their unit meet mission requirements.