Robins golfers to participate in Air Force training camp

  • Published
  • By Kendahl Johnson
  • 78 ABW/PA
The Air Force has officially invited 30 golfers to compete for a coveted spot on the Air Force golf team, including several golfers from Robins.

Master Sgt. Mark Schwab, Tech. Sgt. Chris McIlwain and Staff Sgt. Mike Membrila were invited to compete in the Air Force golf training camp at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Sept. 16-19. Two other Robins golfers, Master Sgt. Scott Bayles and Tech. Sgt. Martin Bajala, were not officially selected for the training camp, but will join the trio at Shaw as alternates.

Sergeant Membrila, an aircraft battle damage repair craftsmen for the 653rd Combat Logistics Support Squadron, said it was nice to be invited, and finishing in the top six is the goal for everyone participating, as the top six finishers will be invited to play on the Air Force golf team against the other three military branches.

"The most important thing is making the Air Force team. We have an advantage because we play in a tournament (at Shaw) every year. We get four solid competitive rounds under our belt at a course where there's going to be a four-round qualifying tournament, and that gives us an added comfort level to compete and do well."

It's Sergeant Membrila's third invitation to golf camp; he made the Air Force team each of the past two years - finishing in fourth place last year and tied for second in 2005. It will be the fifth straight year competing for Sergeant McIlwain, but it will be a new experience for Sergeant Schwab, as this is his first invitation to the camp.

"It's really exciting for me to be invited," said Sergeant Schwab, chief of contracting for the 116th Air Control Wing. "It's going to be a tall order for me to make the team. I'll need to shoot par all four days, so my concentration will need to be strong and I'll need to focus. I know I can do it, I just have to do it."

Another first time participant will be Sergeant Bajala, NCOIC of customer service for vehicle maintenance with the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron. His goal is to finish high enough to get an official invitation to the training camp next year.

"It's my first time competing in the Air Force training camp, so there are some nerves to overcome. But I expect to make the top 10. It's golf so you never know what might happen," he said.

For Sergeant McIlwain, a unit deployment manager for the Air Force Reserve Command, just being invited isn't enough. Although he made the team in 2005, he missed making the squad several other times by just a few strokes. He doesn't plan on sitting home when the Air Force takes on the Army, Navy and Marines at Oceana Naval Air Station, Va., Sept. 23-27.

"I expect to make the Air Force team, there's no doubt," Sergeant McIlwain said. "It doesn't matter whether you finish first or sixth, it's all the same, so I'll be happy as long as I make the team. I've played that course so many times, I feel I have a great chance."

Sergeant Bayles, superintendent of training for the AFRC, was a training camp selectee last year but a poor showing caused him to be left off this year's list. While disappointed with his performance in 2006, he hopes to make amends this year.

"I expect to play a lot better this year. I hope to bring my best game and if I do, I have the potential to make the Air Force team. We are all excited and are preparing for a great tournament," said Sergeant Bayles, adding that he expects at least one or two golfers from Robins will make the Air Force team.

The group is quick to thank their unit leadership for support in allowing them to attend the Air Force golf camp and pursue the opportunity of playing on the Air Force team.