From the Executive Director: My Life Has Changed with the Swing of a Golf Club

This month’s blog may be for some sad and sobering.  It deals with the suicide rate of our military and veterans.  On an average, 20 veterans die each day from suicide.  You may not be aware of this statistic mainly because no one like to talk about suicide.  We need to get past these stigmas and address this critical issue.  Despite efforts by the VA aimed at addressing this, the statistics have remained basically the same over the last decade.  According to VA records, more veterans died by suicide from 2005 to 2017 (nearly 79,000) than the total number of troops who died in 30 years of war in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan (about 65,000).  For active military, the suicide rate as of 2018 was 24.8 per 100,000.  The overall civilian rate that same year was 14.2.  One death by suicide is one too many.

So, you ask, what does that have to do with the game of golf?  Well, through programs such as PGA HOPE, the GIVE program, Salute Military Golf, Links to Freedom, and American Lakes, to name a few, golf can and is making a difference.  

I had the opportunity to develop the embryo stage of PGA HOPE while I was with PGA of America.  PGA HOPE uses golf to make a positive impact on the lives of our military and veterans. I recall being at the opening of the PGA HOPE program at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio many years ago, and as the bus pulled up from Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), about 15 military patients got off.  The last person to get off the bus was a young Sergeant who had to be carried off the bus by 2 medical staff.  This individual was a double AK (Above the Knee amputee).  He had been in Iraq and an IED blew up on the road he and his platoon were traveling. I could tell he didn’t want to be there and had a lot of anger overall.   The young man was put into an Adaptive Golf Car and assisted in driving over to the golf range.  I decided to make him my student for the day.  After a few swings and tips, the first shot went down the range about 180 yards.  It was amazing.  The frown and anger suddenly became a big smile. 

Right then he told me, “I came today but I didn’t want to be here, and I have been thinking about suicide.  But my life has changed with the swing of a golf club.  I now know that when I go home, I can play golf with my friends and family, and most of all, nothing is impossible.” 

I found out later than this young man got a job at a local golf course and is encouraging veterans from his community to get engaged with the game of golf.  WOW!!  Golf can change lives.

Since then, I have heard countless stories about how golf has changed someone’s life.  Feel free to share with us your stories about this.  Send them to info@accessgolf.org.

So, as I close out this month’s blog, I would like to share the words of Rich O’Brien, National Alliance Board Member and Operations Manager for PGA HOPE Charleston.  “An invitation is a powerful thing and an opportunity that cannot be ignored.”  If you are a golfer, extend an invitation to a veteran or member of the military to join you on course.  If you run a facility, if you are an instructor of golf, or you are a community program coordinator, don’t wait for them to come to you.  Reach out and extend that invitation to join you in one of the greatest games of all, GOLF.

Until we meet again, “Choose to Include.” 

Steve Jubb, PGA/LM

Executive Director

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.

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