Illinois State University Women’s Golf Coach Breanne Hall goes to a lot of golf tournaments with her Redbird team. During her recent travels a particular style of golf bag kept catching her eye, so much so that she made it her mission to learn more about it.

“I started seeing these military tribute bags at Redbird tournaments on the road and wanted to find out about them,” Hall said. “Once I heard how it worked, I immediately ordered the bag through Ping.”

Turns out the golf bags are part of a partnership between Folds of Honor and the Women’s Golf Coaches Association. The idea is for college golf programs to honor a fallen or severely wounded member of the U.S. military by having players carry a golf bag during tournaments that displays the name, rank, and branch of service of the individual being honored.

This season the Redbirds honored Lance Cpl. Thomas Connors of Chicago, a retired, disabled veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Connors planned to make the military a career but was hurt during training. He is the stepfather of Illinois State junior Wilfredo Colon, who is studying engineering technology. While Colon, 21, does not play golf competitively, he appreciates the connection to the game since he spent a couple of his high school summers as a caddie at Oak Park Country Club. He said Connors has been an influential person in his life since about the age of 7, and he’s happy to see him honored.

“I’m proud that he’s being recognized for his time and duty,” Colon said. “I’m grateful to be living the life I’m living mostly because of what he’s done for us.”

Connors is married to Colon’s mother, Brenda, and the couple also have two younger daughters. Connors continues his service to the country in his job as a federal agent with the Department of Homeland Security. His conscientious devotion to his family has not gone unappreciated by Colon.

“He’s raised me, taught me a work ethic, manners at the dinner table, and how to treat people,” Colon said of Connors. “He’s a very strong, dedicated family man.”

Colon learned at home the value of being humble and volunteering for community organizations. His own hard work and determination contributed to him earning the rank of Eagle Scout. 

Hall has been a big fan of Folds of Honor for many years. Since 2007, the organization, founded by Lt. Col. Dan Rooney, a veteran F-16 fighter pilot, has been providing scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled service members. Colon is a past recipient of a Folds of Honor scholarship.

Hall, in her third year coaching at Illinois State, said a different Redbird player carries the bag at each tournament. After the golf season, the plan is to donate the bag to Connors and his family.

Since Hall’s grandfathers, father, and brother all served in the military, being involved with Folds of Honor and getting the organization’s message out means a lot to her. She also makes the most of the opportunity to teach her team about the importance of showing gratitude for the sacrifice of military members and their families.

“I tell my players that this bag represents the honor, respect, and bravery of those who serve,” Hall said. “We want to continue to honor the men and women who serve in our military.

“We also want to continue to bring awareness to Folds of Honor and encourage those who follow Redbird golf to donate to this great foundation.”