Daniel Island Club Provides HOPE to Veterans with Disabilities and Others

By Rich O’Brien, member of the National Alliance for Accessible Golf Advisory Board

The South Carolina Lowcountry has become of one of the model communities for accessible golf.  In Charleston, the PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) program has grown to well over 200 veterans participating at five locations throughout the city.  A wide variety of golf courses have joined our important mission to help the veterans including a municipal course (Wescott Golf Club), a semi-private course (Links at Stono Ferry), a military base course (Joint Base Charleston), a resort course (Kiawah Island Resort), and a private club (the Daniel Island Club).

The Daniel Island Club, a private club located in the Daniel Island community, was the second course in the Charleston area to volunteer to host the veterans and has been an integral part of the program for the past four years. Ron Cerrudo is the club’s Director of Instruction and in early 2016 when he heard that PGA HOPE was looking for a host course in the Mt. Pleasant area, he immediately volunteered to help.  Within a few days, he had enlisted the help of Chris Edwards, the Director of Golf and Greg Keating, CCM, PGA, the General Manager, at the time to this important mission.  Keating added, “We are proud to be a host location for the PGA HOPE program.  The sacrifices that veterans and their families make to protect our well-being is almost hard to comprehend.  If we can be just a little part of giving back to this brave community, we are humbled by the opportunity to do so.”

Ron Cerrudo played the PGA Tour from 1967-1979 during which time he was a two-time PGA Tour winner and often roomed with Tom Watson.  A ruptured disc in his back cut his competitive career short but he shifted gears and for the past 40 years he has been one of the top-rated teaching professionals in South Carolina. While at Shipyard Golf Club, he worked alongside Mike Tinkey, the President of the National Alliance of Accessible Golf.  Cerrudo became the Director of Golf Instruction at the Daniel Island Club in 2002.

The PGA HOPE program has been near and dear to Ron’s heart.  He adds, “I just think anybody that can get involved with PGA HOPE should, and it’s spreading all over the United States. All you have to do is get involved one time and you’re stuck in a good way. You love the guys and the camaraderie. Just to see the looks on their faces, especially with fellas that have PTSD, is so gratifying. I’ve read that 22 vets a day commit suicide. That’s just unbelievable and when you can see something like this that can change their perspective, it’s fantastic.”

The Daniel Island Club has embraced veterans by hosting a seven-week clinic series during the fall and spring on Monday afternoons from 4-6 pm.  The club donates the use of the facility and their teaching professionals donate their time for this important initiative.  As a result, PGA HOPE Charleston has been able to regularly host 25-30 veterans at the club during the fall and spring sessions. The club’s generosity has also helped the program expand to other sections of Charleston so the veterans do not have to get frustrated driving in heavy traffic to attend the sessions.

Recently, the club has hired a pair of graduates of PGA HOPE to work at the course.  For one of the veterans, a submariner who served during the Vietnam War era, the extra income helps supplement his retirement.  Meanwhile, for a 31-year-old Marine Corps veteran battling PTSD, the job is an important step that is helping him reintegrate back into society.

Cerrudo also noted another important reason why private clubs should be involved in accessible golf programs, “As the members of the club get older, they often face health challenges that can limit how often they can play or even threaten to take them out of the game entirely.  The special training that our instructors have received allows us to help more members stay in the game despite these health challenges.”

As you can see, the Daniel Island Club is taking the lead in helping to provide HOPE to veterans and others with injuries, illnesses, or challenges here in the Lowcountry.  The program provides those who served our nation a hand up to improve the quality of their lives through the game of golf.  We would encourage other private clubs to become actively involved in accessible golf programs.

The National Alliance for Accessible Golf is a charitable organization working to ensure the opportunity for all individuals to play the game of golf. The Alliance is represented by major golf organizations in the United States, organizations that provide services for people with disabilities and other advocates. Through GAIN™ (Golf: Accessible and Inclusive Networks) and other programs, the Alliance promotes inclusion and awareness to the golf industry, golf instructors, and the public. For more information about Alliance programs and resources including Best Practices for Courses and Programs and the Toolkit for Golf Course Owners & Operators, please visit accessgolf.org. For inquiries, contact info@accessgolf.org.

About National Alliance for Accessible Golf
Dave Barton, PGA is the Executive Director for the National Alliance for Accessible Golf. The National Alliance for Accessible Golf is a coalition of recreational, therapeutic, and golf organizations committed to the inclusion of people with disabilities through the game of golf.

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