Local Veterans with disabilities are finding hope and healing on the golf course through a free program held at Goodwin Park Golf Course in Hartford. The six week session is funded by PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere), the flagship military program of PGA REACH, the charitable foundation of the PGA of America.
Trained PGA Professionals introduce golf to Veterans with physical and emotional disabilities to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being.
Once a week on Thursday mornings from 9am-11am, more than 20 military Veterans are transported from the VA Hospital in Newington and provided with golf instruction, course access, and adaptive equipment if needed.
The instructors are trained to teach golf to Veterans with a range of physical or cognitive disabilities, including Traumatic Brain Injury, PTSD, and amputees. A major component of the training program for PGA professionals is learning important aspects of Veterans’ rehabilitative culture.
On Thursday August 16th, the Veterans at Goodwin will be participating in a Drive, Chip, and Putt Contest to showcase the skills they have picked up over the last three weeks on the golf course. Each veteran will have a chance to hit three drives, three chips and 3 putts from a range of distances. Scores will be determined based on driving accuracy and distance from the pin from putts and chips.
“The effort made by the PGA of America to launch this program and provide these opportunities is incredible,” says Joe Mentz, the PGA Head Professional at Goodwin Park Golf Course. “Our veterans have sacrificed so much for this country and we are honored to get a chance to teach them the game of golf and bond with them every week.”
The program is free of charge to all Veterans, and is entirely funded by PGA REACH. The PGA’a charitable foundation connects local PGA sections and professionals with Department of Veteran Affairs Hospitals who could benefit from the program and are willing to host.
In 2017, the program assisted over 1,500 Veterans nationwide and the goal for 2018 will be to help over 2,000 new Veterans. Transitioning from the battlefield to everyday civilian life is one of the most crucial and overlooked challenges facing Veterans. For many Veterans, adaptive sports provide their first exposure to physical activity since returning home.
Research from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs verifies that physical activity is important to maintaining good health, speeding up recovery time, and improving their overall quality of life.
The PGA H.O.P.E. program attempts to provide a setting to help our Veterans heal, even just for a few hours at a time on the golf course. In order to extend the opportunity to as many veterans as possible, the program has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which enables Recreational Therapists to refer Veterans to this program as a form of therapy.
H.O.P.E. also gives veterans a new team of supporters, friends and instructors that will provide continued support after the golf program ends.
At the conclusion of the six-week summer program, participants will celebrate with golf, lunch, and a free equipment giveaway. They also will receive a graduation card that affords the veteran with a range of golf-related benefits in the local area.
“This program is so much bigger than the efforts we’re taking on Thursday mornings for a few weeks,” says Mentz. “We want to make sure these men and women have the resources, support, and ability to continue their healing process through the game of golf as well as through the people they meet here.”
For more information about the PGA’s “Helping Our Patriots Everywhere” program, visit www.pgareach.org/services/military.