PGA HOPE Helps to Improve the Quality of Life of Veterans

JoshJosh Swindle with Perry Green and Fred Gutierrez (Photo courtesy of Grace Beahm Alford)

By Rich O’Brien; PGA HOPE Charleston

The COVID-19 Pandemic has been a challenging time for many Americans as a high degree of uncertainty has become the new norm for all Americans.  The Carolinas PGA went to work and has creatively found a way to keep our Veterans connected during these challenging times. 

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are over 4 million disabled Veterans nationwide and Post Traumatic Stress is one of the most common challenges faced by them after returning home from the battlefield and following military service. 

Sadly, many Veterans struggle to reintegrate back into society following military service as they battle conditions such as post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, loss of limbs, or paralysis. In many cases, the Veterans feel alone in their struggles as their family and friends cannot understand the challenges they face. As a result of feeling alone, approximately twenty-two Veterans lose their battle with Post-Traumatic Stress every day on average in this country.

To help combat this problem, the PGA of America and Department of Veterans Affairs created a partnership known as PGA HOPE which stands for Helping Our Patriots Everywhere.  PGA HOPE is the flagship military program of PGA REACH, the charitable foundation of the PGA of America. Through the PGA HOPE program the PGA of America aspires to create a physically and emotionally healthier Veteran community by shaping lives, changing lives, and possibly saving lives through the game of golf. As part of the program, specially trained PGA professionals introduce Veterans to golf through a developmental 6-8 week curriculum. The lesson series is FREE to all Veterans as the program is funded by PGA REACH, the charitable foundation of the PGA of America.

It has been my honor to be the Operations Manager and one of the champions of the PGA HOPE Charleston program. As the son and grandson of disabled Veterans, the PGA HOPE program has been my way to help Veterans, like them, improve the quality of their lives. The program has grown from a handful of Veterans five years ago into the nation’s largest chapter with over 300 Veterans participating in year round clinics at six host sites. The Charleston program has become the model program for the PGA’s Flagship Military Outreach Program. 

PGA HOPE has proven to be an excellent way for Veterans and active-duty personnel with injuries, illnesses, or challenges to improve the quality of their lives and reintegrate back into society.  Camaraderie has been the key as Veterans no longer feel alone and, through the program, many have been able to trade nightmares and flashbacks for golf dreams and new friendships.  For some Veterans, knowing that another Veteran had their back has helped save their lives, while for others it has helped them overcome addictions that probably would have ended their lives. 

In 2019, PGA HOPE impacted 2,500 Veterans nationwide across 37 participating PGA Sections, hosted at 132 program locations, and taught by 350 PGA Professionals.  The Carolinas PGA Section is the largest section of the PGA of America and it also has taken a lead role for the PGA HOPE program with 12 program locations taught by 48 Carolinas PGA members. This past year, there were 359 new Veterans participating in the program and since the program’s inception in 2015, 955 Veterans have graduated from the program at one of the host sites. 

Back in March, many of the PGA HOPE clinics from around the country were getting ready to start their spring series when the United States was shut down due to the global pandemic. This presented an interesting challenge to keep the spirit of camaraderie alive as the Veterans in the program were among hundreds of millions of Americans that were asked by our leaders to isolate themselves.  

According to Laura Miller, PGA HOPE Specialist for the PGA of America, “Amidst the ongoing challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic, the PGA HOPE team has drawn on its collaborative network of positive influencers (aka the PGA HOPE family) in each of the participating PGA Sections to keep the spirit of HOPE alive – albeit virtually – during these trying times.”

She added, “Early on in the national quarantine,  PGA HQ “brainstormed” with the dedicated staff of the 41 PGA Sections/Foundations and the 350 passionate PGA HOPE instructors and the collaborative ideas that were created blew us away!  Among the creative ideas were virtual “hangouts” for Veterans, online lessons, trick shot challenges, Facebook live group chats, and even a trash talking competition – there is no shortage of constructive outlets for PGA HOPE Veterans to access during this strange and stressful time.”

Miller also applauded the outstanding efforts of the Carolinas PGA HOPE team by saying, “Even at the height of a global pandemic, the Carolinas PGA HOPE team continues to be a force for good.  As the largest and one of the most engaged PGA HOPE friendly Sections in the country, the Carolinas have truly embraced the mission of caring for our nation’s heroes through the HOPE program.  The passion and genuine care of the instructors delivering PGA HOPE programming continues to be the Carolinas’ greatest asset, and is reflected in the gratitude and success of each of their HOPE graduates.”

To find out how you can get involved in the PGA HOPE program either as a participant, coach, or sponsor, contact your local PGA Section for more information.  To find the nearest PGA HOPE chapter to you visit, https://www.pgareach.org/services/military

 

About the Author:

Rich O’Brien (Golf Writer) is the Operations Manager for the groundbreaking PGA HOPE Charleston Program. A former college golf coach he utilized his training in sports psychology and exercise science to help him recover from a catastrophic injury while using golf as therapy. He currently also serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Alliance of Accessible Golf and is considered by many to be “the voice of adaptive golf.”

 

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.
PGA REACH is the 501(c)(3) charitable foundation of the PGA of America. The mission of PGA REACH is to positively impact the lives of youth, military, and diverse populations by enabling access to PGA Professionals, PGA Sections and the game of golf. For more information about the PGA HOPE program in your area, contact your local PGA section.

About 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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: