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Army sergeant from Madison, shot in ambush, returns home to the links

Some people aspire to be heroes. But this week on the links, Army Sergeant First Class Brent Bartels just aspired to be a golfer.

“If I shoot 70 or 90, I don’t really care,” said Bartels after his final round on Thursday. “I’m just out here having fun.”

It’s been about 15 years since the Madison LaFollette graduate has played in a Wisconsin amateur tournament.  “It was at blue mound,” said SFC Bartels. “But yeah, just good to be back playing in one of these again.”

The former Madison College golfer has been spending those years the military.  SFC Bartels’ leave from the Army ended up coinciding with this year’s 118th Wisconsin State Amateur Championship. So he decided that he would go for it.  Sergeant First Class Bartels qualified and then was able to make the cut, participating in all four days of action.

“Serving [in the army] and being in some situations overseas, you realize there’s a lot worse things in life than a bogey or a double bogey,” said SFC Bartels.

He would know. Less than two years ago, Sergeant First Class Bartels was a part of a mission in Niger where four American soldiers and five Nigerian soldiers were killed.

“I always ask why?” said SFC Bartels. “You know that was the hardest thing for me, why?”

SFC Bartels himself was shot in the arm. A tourniquet was placed on him in the field, which saved him and his arm . However, he’s been through surgeries and physical therapy and may still have to undergo another surgery. The Sergeant First Class is set to receive a silver star for his actions in helping save a Captain during the ambush in Niger.

But remember, he doesn’t want to be known as a hero. He says those who died – Staff Sergeants Dustin Wright, Jeremiah Johnson, Bryan Black and Sergeant La David Johnson  – are the ones who deserve the recognition.

“I am no hero,” said SFC Bartels. “I am just a guy who got really lucky that day.”

After his long layoff from golf, SFC Bartels ended up finishing tied for 69th at the Wisconsin State Amateur Championship.  Out of the 156 golfers who began the tournament, that marks quite the return.

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