Story by A1C Whitney Laine on 07/03/2019A golfer sets his ball on the starting tee and looks over the meticulously manicured grass toward the goal; the four-inch hole is hundreds of yards away. Each of the 18 starting tees offered another opportunity for the golfer to move up in the rankings toward being selected to compete in the 7th Conseil International du Sport Militaire Military World Games.
That achievement was recently accomplished by a Fairchild Airman who competed alongside 33 other U.S. military members during the 2019 Armed Forces Golf Championship.
"I swung like Happy Gilmore' when my dad gave me my first set of golf clubs at six-years-old," said Staff Sgt. Dolton Dishman, 92nd Operations Support Squadron flotation equipment non-commissioned officer in charge. "My stepdad then started teaching me how to swing more naturally, but it wasn't until after high school that I began intentionally practicing and being more focused."
Dishman joined the Air Force shortly after graduating high school, where he planned to continue golfing. His initial pursuit of golf within the Armed Forces Sports program was delayed by an unexpected injury.
"My injuries were heartbreaking, especially my first and second anterior cruciate ligament tears on the same knee back to back," Dishman said. "I had planned to go pro while I was in the military but my game wasn't as good. I started easing into playing, getting my groove back [after basic training] and started to improve. Then, I tore my meniscus in October 2018, causing a couple months pause."
Dishman's dedication toward recovering showed his passion for the sport as he returned to the game at his following duty stations, and earned a spot on three different U.S.A. teams to compete in the military world games.
"When I received a call from the coach [this year] asking me to put in an application, I knew it was going to be a good year," Dishman said. "I'd been playing well, but, due to my recent permanent change of station, I wasn't sure my leadership would approve me going."
The uncertainty following his PCS was quickly unfounded by his leadership's eagerness to support him.
"Fortunately the Air Force has the sporting organization structured in a way to allow commanders to easily approve members to participate in the programs," said Lt. Col. Aaron Strode, 92nd OSS commander. "Golf has been something for Staff Sgt. Dishman to fall back on and excel at throughout his Air Force career, whether it is base championships or participating in off-base programs."
The Air Force Sports Organization encourages Airmen to participate and excel in personal sporting activities around the world through the International Military Sports Council. The CISM is second only to the International Olympic Committee as the largest multi-sport discipline organization, hosting more than 20 competitions annually.
To qualify for the World Games, the 2019 AFGC challenged participants with four rounds at the Falcon Dunes Golf Course at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.
"I had to grind to complete the course," Dishman said. "I was playing well, but I was struggling with feeling my [putting game]. My third round ended with a score leaving me tied for 12th place."
It was the last roundthis was Dishman's final chance to earn a spot on the world-level team. By staying resilient, he charged forward and climbed the ranks to 1st place for the Air Force and 5th overall.
"Falling just shy of eight under, I sighed with relief when I completed my last putt," Dishman said. "When I figured out that I made the cut I was happy to have composed myself and stayed aggressive until the end. I've had the privilege to play on the U.S.A. team two times previously, but this year felt like a new achievement."
Going to China, playing in the Military World Games and having Doug Quirie, Air Force Golf team coach, in attendance really shined some light on me, Dishman added.
Airmen show greater chances of success when leadership promotes professional Airmanship and allows them to develop skills outside of their primary duties, enhancing their quality of life serving in the Air Force.
"When leadership has the means and resources available to support their Airmen and they do so, it creates a positive environment where people are excited to come to work and to be part of the team," Strode said. "Airmen who are doing great and exciting things outside of the workplace offer a bigger sense of pride to their unit."
With the support of his unit and his own determination, Dishman has reaped the benefits of his persistence.
"I eased back into it and now my game is better than it has ever been in my life," Dishman said. "I was resilient and motivated to hit that next level of my game, I knew if I believed in myself and my ability, I could go far in the golf world, whether that just be for the military, as an amateur or pro. This is just the start in my eyes; I have a lot of practice to do to get where I want to be, but I truly feel I will get there soon. My goal of playing on a professional tour has always kept me motivated and to get better, that goal I feel is within reach with where my game has trended to."
Motivated and resilient Airmen are the cornerstone of the Air Force. Team Fairchild and the Air Force makes a priority of supporting Airmen both in the work place and on the playing field. Winning a game may be a personal achievement, but what these talented athletes bring back to the fight is an invaluable contribution to teamwork and mission completion.