miller- WQW

World Golf Hall of Famer and NBC commentator Johnny Miller poses for a photo with a pair of wounded warriors — Army Sgt. Saul Martinez, left, and Lance Cpl. Derek Goodridge — during 2012’s Warriors & Quiet Waters “The Journey Home” fundraising golf tournament at Riverside Country Club.

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Most know Johnny Miller as an opinionated and somewhat abrasive NBC on-air personality.

Stephen McGrath has experienced another side of the two-time Major champion and 1998 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee, however. It’s a side that surfaced two summers ago, when Miller agreed to take part in a golf tournament benefitting local nonprofit Warriors & Quiet Waters (WQW), which utilizes fly fishing and other athletic pursuits to generate camaraderie and hope for U.S. veterans of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq transitioning back to civilian life.

McGrath fondly recalls spending some time wading in local waters with Miller, an avid fly fisherman. He also remembers Miller being moved to tears during the keynote address while discussing his conversations with wounded warrior Lance Cpl. Derek Goodridge, who lost his right arm during a tour overseas.

“He’s got this persona as a hard-nosed commentator, but Johnny really won that crowd over,” recalled McGrath, a retired dentist and WQW board member emeritus.

“He is a very compassionate and generous man.”

Miller proved that once more about four weeks ago.

McGrath and WQW were scrambling during preparations for the third “The Journey Home” golf tournament — the year’s largest fundraiser — after expected guest speaker Gary McCord was forced to bow out because of an unexpected medical issue. McGrath made one call, and Miller willingly agreed to return to Montana and fill in for his U.S. golfing and commentating cohort.

Miller is slated to address a crowd of about 300 during a July 24 gathering at Riverside County Club. Guests will enjoy cocktails and dinner in addition to participating in a live auction; everything from exotic vacations and golf and fishing excursions to collectables from the likes of Arnold Palmer, Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and Jack Nicklaus — a guest at the inaugural event — will be up for grabs.

“I think this is a measure of who they are as people; they immediately grasp our mission, see what we’re trying to accomplish, and they’re willing to help,” McGrath said of Miller and Nicklaus. “I can’t stress how busy these guys are; for them to take time out in the summer to do this is a really special deal.

“And for it to happen in a place like Bozeman, which is a little off the grid, lends some credibility to our tournament, and by extension our organization.”

Miller will share the dais with Marine Cpl. Matt Bradford, who lost both legs and was blinded by an improvised explosive device while in Iraq. Bradford first visited Montana in 2009, and will return with his wife, Amanda, to participate in a couple’s retreat that coincides with the tournament.

“We bring back warriors who have previously visited with us with their wives for a reunion of sorts that allows us to give their spouses a well deserved reprieve from the pressures of caregiving,” McGrath said. In 2013, WQW hosted 55 veterans and 12 spouses, and to date has served more than 350. In addition to hosting seven fly fishing excursions this year, the foundation has added skiing and equine therapy programs to its offerings.

“Matt is really going to bring the house down,” McGrath added. “He was part of a film we did five years ago to promote our cause, and he’s a very courageous, special young man. He’s married with a family now and going to college. … It’s very heartening to see your extended family move on in a positive way after their experiences … and know we played a part.”

Limited spots for both the dinner and July 25’s four-man scramble tournament are still available, McGrath said.

While his packed schedule will preclude Miller from hosting another clinic, WQW has added a new wrinkle to the festivities. Ten people will be selected to participate in a chipping contest before the tournament commences; the person closest to the pin will then have the chance to win $1 million by sinking a shot from 165 yards.

There’s also an opportunity to win a trip to the famed Monterey Peninsula; the winner of a special raffle — 100 tickets are being sold for $200 each — will be heading to California with three others for a five-night trip that includes rounds of golf at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Spanish Bay and the Monterey Peninsula Country Club.

“Someone is going to make a lot of friends immediately,” McGrath joked. “There’s a disclaimer at the bottom of the poster — it’s hard to see — that says I have to be included in any foursome.

“Having guys like Jack and Johnny, we’ve really set the bar high, but it’s working. … It’s going to be a great experience.”

For more information on the foundation, or to register for the dinner or tournament, visit www.warriorsandquietwaters.org or call 585-9793.

Jon Maletz can be reached at jmaletz@dailychronicle.com or 582-2601. Follow him on Twitter @jmaletz.

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