Steve Melnikoff stormed Omaha Beach as a member of the 29th Infantry Division of the US Army on June 6, 1944, otherwise known as D-Day. Fast-forward 74 years, and the 99-year-old was surprised by golf legend Greg Norman with a new set of clubs as well as an invitation to golf with the 20-time PGA TOUR winner at Augusta National, the home of the Masters.
Melnikoff, a resident of Cockeysville, Md. who hits the links about three times per week, knows Norman through their involvement in a veterans affairs program.
“Meeting Steve is really what it’s all about,” Norman told Golf.com. “He exudes the happiness of life. Knowing what he’s gone through compared to what we’ve gone through, it’s like chalk and cheese.”
As Melnikoff was in front of the Golf.com cameras in late November, Norman snuck up on him and delivered the gifts.
“Somebody told me you’ve never owned a brand new set of full golf clubs, right?” Norman asked.
“That’s right. I never did,” Melnikoff responded.
Not only did Norman hand over a set of Cobra clubs, but he also asked Melnikoff if he’d like to play Augusta National in the spring with him.
Here’s a look at Norman’s on-set visit:
Melnikoff, a two-time Purple Heart recipient with three Bronze Stars, nearly lost his life during WWII. Just two weeks after the invasion at Normandy, he was shot in the throat by a machine gun. He made a full recovery in a United Kingdom hospital and, instead of returning the U.S., he stayed in Europe to continue fighting the war.
Following WWII, he worked at a steel company and began playing golf.
When not out on the course, Melinikoff spends his time educating students about our country’s history.
“You may not believe this, but I’m the only one left in my division who can walk and do this kind of thing, they are all gone,” he told Invictus Games. “It’s important for school kids to learn. We don’t want the memories lost.”
And for that, Augusta National should feel lucky to have Melinikoff step foot on their course.