The PGA Teaching Professionals from Marriott Golf Academy and Grande Vista Golf Club in Orlando, Florida hosted PGA HOPE-Helping Our Patriots Everywhere-Military Golf Program established for Veterans with disabilities to Tee-it-up. The eight week program is designed to introduce Golf as a therapeutic part of the rehabilitation process for many disabled veterans. PGA HOPE programming helps them assimilate back into their community through the social interaction the game of golf provides. The PGA Professionals provide the needed instruction to a group of veterans/military heroes in an effort to enhance their mental, social, physical and emotional well-being. By being in a group with similar military backgrounds, the participants forge a new comraderie with fellow veterans who have experienced the ravages of being on the front line, and loss of their core group of support while on active duty.
PGA HOPE is the flagship military program of PGA REACH, the charitable foundation of the PGA of America. Sessions are offered at NO cost to military veterans.
I attended the last session of the eight week program at Marriott Golf Academy at Grande Vista. There were over 20 veterans, men and women, in attendance who had gone through the previous 7 sessions. On this Friday it was a long drive competition similar to those on the Golf Channel’s Big Break, where points were accumulated by teams divided up in 3. The razzing and poking fun at each other, depending on what Armed Forces they were in, was great.
I had the opportunity to speak with many of the veterans. There was a common theme to the conversations we had- How this program has saved their lives. Many were sitting at home drowning their emotions in drugs or alcohol, and PGA HOPE, along with the caring Professionals at Marriott Golf Academy, gave them the will to learn a game, no matter their handicaps, and strive to be the best they could be at golf. Many of the veterans had limbs missing, but some had hidden problems and this was the very best therapy. Somebody took the time to show they sincerely cared and teach them a game they could play for the rest of their lives with fellow veterans and friends. It was an awesome experience.
After the competition, there was a reception at the Grill Restaurant at Grande Vista Vacation Club, where Andy Mitchell, Director of Golf Operations, made all the attendees honorary members of the Golf Club. They could come out and practice or play as long as they cared to. Adams Golf Company also fitted all of them free and they will be receiving clubs specially made for their particular needs. There wasn’t a dry eye in the Grill. The Veterans stood at attention and saluted Andy and his Staff of PGA professionals, and thanked for their help.
Golf is a great sport. A game I love to play. Now, Golf is the perfect prescription for what ails our heroes. It gives them HOPE.