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MILITARY

HELP US GIVE HOPE!

PGA HOPE Carolinas (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) is an adaptive golf program offered by our PGA Professionals as a rehabilitation tool to improve our Veterans’ quality of life by enhancing their mental, social, physical, and emotional well-being. There is NO COST to our Veterans. We serve our Veterans at sixteen locations in North and South Carolina with an emphasis on helping those with physical and emotional disabilities that would most benefit from our initiatives. 

Register HERE for the 2022 Summer Veteran Application

Register for the 2022 Fall Veteran Application on Monday, August 8 at 10AM ET.

About PGA HOPE

Voices of Serve – “Come Home”

PGA HOPE Facts

  • It is a fact that suicide is a major issue among military Veterans, with recent statistical studies showing that 22 Veterans a day commit suicide. PGA HOPE is working to change this statistic.
  • Participants of PGA HOPE programs include military Veterans living with physical or cognitive challenges such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and amputees, among other challenges.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs research and clinical experience verify that physical activity is important to maintaining good health, speeding recovery and improving overall quality of life. For many injured Veterans, adaptive sports provide their first exposure to physical activity after injury.
  • PGA HOPE programming is fully funded by PGA REACH and is NO COST for Military Veterans.
  • PGA HOPE has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Veterans Affairs, which enables Recreational Therapists to refer Veterans to the PGA HOPE program as a form of therapy.

Veterans Corner

Are you a veteran and new to PGA HOPE? If you have any questions, please contact PGA HOPE Carolinas Ambassador, Harold Hill at harold1670@gmail.com

How to Join a PGA HOPE Carolinas Program?

Are you a Veteran and want to get involved in PGA HOPE? Click HERE and fill out an application. Once an application has been filled out the PGA REACH Carolinas team will connect you with the PGA HOPE Lead Professional at the site that you had selected.

  • Winter Season Opened– December 17, 2021 at 10:00AM EST (SEASON ENDED)
  • Spring Season Opened– January 10, 2022 at 10:00AM EST (PROGRAMS ABOUT TO BEGIN)
  • All-Women’s Program Registration – April 4, 2022 at 10:00AM EST
  • Summer Season – May 9, 2022 at 10:00AM EST
  • Fall Season – August 8, 2022 at 10:00AM EST

*Please note, not all of our PGA HOPE Carolinas site locations host a PGA HOPE program each season so please take a look at the “2022 HOPE Site Location Information” and the Veteran Application Link to know which program is hosting a clinic.

Where Are The PGA HOPE Carolinas Programs Located?

PGA HOPE Carolinas serves veterans in North or South Carolina. Please click HERE to see the site locations of our 15 PGA HOPE programs. If you do not live in North or South Carolina and want to find a PGA HOPE program near you, please go to pgareach.org/services/military and find a program near you!

If you have any questions regarding PGA HOPE Carolinas, please contact PGA REACH Carolinas Program Director, Jessica Asbury at jasbury@pgahq.com or at (336) 398-2848.

Who Can Join A PGA HOPE Program?

PGA HOPE Carolinas (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) is an adaptive golf program offered by our PGA Professionals as a rehabilitation tool to improve our Veterans’ quality of life by enhancing their mental, social, physical, and emotional well-being; however, all Veterans are eligible to participate depending on space available in our clinics. Clinic space will be given to veterans on a first-come, first-serve basis and new veterans will take priority.

Who Teaches the PGA HOPE Clinics?

The only individuals allowed to give golf instruction at the PGA HOPE clinics as PGA HOPE certified PGA Members. Anyone who is NOT a PGA Member cannot give golf instruction. For example, a graduated PGA HOPE veteran or volunteer cannot give instruction or run a clinic.

Benefits to the Veteran Community:

  • Gives a hand-up to our nation’s Veterans.
  • Provides Veterans with camaraderie and a potentially life-saving therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury.
  • Improved quality of life for our Veterans with injuries, illnesses, or challenges

PGA HOPE Carolinas Graduates Benefits

Once Veterans graduate from one of the many different PGA HOPE programs in North and South Carolina, they will receive a graduate card. This graduate card gives Veterans access to a benefits package with many different playing opportunities and discounts on golf equipment, golf apparel, and more!  This benefits package can ONLY  be accessed at participating golf courses and stores by PGA HOPE graduated Veteran’s that show proof with their PGA HOPE graduation card. An example of the card is shown to the left.

*Please note, if you do not have a PGA HOPE graduation card, please connect with your PGA HOPE Lead Professional on receiving your card.*

Hear From Fellow Veterans

For me, the PGA HOPE program has been a Godsend. It has allowed me to gain an inner focus, and to begin to control my “rages” of uncontrollable desires. Prior to the program, I had no direction or self-control. In the past year, I have been able to reduce my mental health appointments from twice a month to twice a year. With the help of PGA HOPE, I am now able to focus for days without episodes. PGA HOPE Charleston, with the help of meds, has allowed me to be able to focus like never before. PGA HOPE provides just that… hope for a new direction and the promise of a new life.” – Sam Smargissi, U.S. Air Force (R)

“I had retired and moved to new area where I knew no one. I went to the VA and did group sessions but they only made things worse by bringing up old wounds. Prior to this program, I was functioning, but I had no real purpose. I also was having problems finding friends that could understood what life with PTSD is like. My wife and family sometimes suggested that since it was 45 years ago, it was time to get over it. Of course, they did not understand that PTSD is something you don’t just get over.”

Then one day, I was given a flyer about the PGA HOPE program. I had played golf all my life, but not very well. It was something I enjoyed and knew I could temporarily forget about my problems. Joining the program I found friends who I could talk with, not only on the golf course, but any time day or night. I have made many new friends and now feel like I now have a purpose. As a peer mentor, I can now also help my comrades in arms and together, we help each other get through the bad times, while sharing the good times. – Roland Caramagno, U.S. Army (R)

 

In many ways, it was not until I got around the guys that I truly understood my own PTSD. While we played golf together, we shared our stories and learned that we were not alone. Many of these men and women have gone through hell and with the help of PGA HOPE have come out the other side and now can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Smiles are now on their faces where once there was nothing but anger and frustration. It amazes me that a game of golf, when combined with a few laughs, can bring out the best of these men and women who suffered in silence for far too long. My favorite line from our book, Half Paralyzed, Twice Strong is “I’m here to give a hand up, not a hand out, to those willing to take it.”  – Fred Guitierrez, U.S Navy (R)

 

“I am incredibly thankful for the doors that PGA HOPE Asheville have opened for me. After completing the program last year, I quickly realized how beneficial it was to me. When I started the program last year, I was at my lowest point mentally. I have become unsociable and had given up golf altogether. PGA HOPE Asheville not only got me back into this wonderful game, but it has allowed me to share it with other Veterans. This program has drug me out of a hole that I thought would only get deeper. I genuinely look forward to our sessions every week and I’m more passionate towards golf than I ever was before. So many Veterans could learn and prosper from this program while gaining back a sense a camaraderie in the process. Thank you, PGA HOPE Asheville.”  Colton Hensley, U.S. Army (R)

 

The PGA HOPE Program has given me a renewed purpose in life. Some Soldiers have visible wounds were anyone can see a missing part of the body; a wheelchair bound person and those who have prosthetic equipment. Then there are others whose wounds are not visible such as PTSD, anxiety, depression or other mental challenges. The PGA HOPE Program has given us all a sense of new value in life. I am better at interacting with people, creating healthy and happy relationships. My fear of failure has a different perspective now. They have changed to a strong drive to succeed. My self-esteem, self-respect and confidence are much improved. I will do as much as I can to influence other veterans to become a part of this great program. Thank you, PGA HOPE for all you have done for me.” – Larry Clifton, U.S. Army (R) Click here to see a video testimonial from Larry Clifton.

 

No matter what we go through there always is a light of HOPE at the end of the tunnel. When I am upright, for that brief moment of time, I feel normal.”  – Josh Swindle, Army National Guard (R)

 

 


“Seeing somebody cares. I mean you never know what our struggles are…you may not know my individual struggles, you may not know the other Veteran’s individual struggles but you’re taking time to say that you know it exists and you’re taking the time to put a program together for you and man it is special because it’s for me and really thank you all for doing that.” 
– Justin Washington, U.S. Navy (R)

 

 

“I used to settle my mind down a lot. I used to have an anger problem when I got out of the military and golf seemed to relax me.” – Doug Robertson, U.S. Army (R) (Far left in photo)

 

 


“I’ve gotten really sick and I got addicted to all the pain meds and everything that they (Doctors) had put me on and I was like this is not for me sitting around and…trying to commit suicide twice and last March I took my first PGA HOPE clinic and I knew then that I had my drive back. I had my need back!” 
– Terry Stewart, U.S. Navy (R)

For more information regarding PGA HOPE Carolinas, please contact PGA REACH Carolinas Program Director, Jessica Asbury at jasbury@pgahq.com or at (336) 398-2848.

VET SUMMER OF 2022 APPLICATION

Are you a Veteran and want to get involved in PGA HOPE? Click the link below and fill out an application.

APPLY TODAY

2022 HOPE Site Location Information

PGA HOPE Asheville started in the Spring of 2017 where it was led by PGA HOPE Asheville Lead Professional and PGA HOPE National Trainer, Brian Oliver, PGA.

Have any questions? Please contact Brian Oliver, PGA at boliver0301@pga.com.

Follow PGA HOPE Asheville along on Facebook to get more involved!

PGA HOPE Charleston started in the Fall of 2015 at Wescott Golf Club and grew to 4 other locations in the Lowcountry Chapter. PGA HOPE Charleston was the first program in the Carolinas to start giving HOPE to our nation’s military heroes through the leadership of Perry Green, PGA! Please see below the PGA HOPE Lead Professionals for each PGA HOPE Charleston Program.

Wescott Golf Club in Summerville, SC
This program was established in the Fall of 2015 by PGA HOPE Lead & the 2020 Carolinas PGA Patriot Award Winner, Perry Green, PGA.

  • 2nd Spring Session Dates:Thursday, March 17, 2022 through April 28, 2022 (once a week every Thursday)
  • Spring Session Dates: Friday, March 18, 2022 through April 29, 2022 (once a week every Friday)
  • Fall Session Dates: Friday, September 16, 2022 through October 28, 2022 (once a week every Friday)

Daniel Island Club in Charleston, SC
This program was established in the Spring of 2016 by PGA HOPE Lead, Ron Cerrudo, PGA.

  • Spring Session Dates: Monday, March 21, 2022 through May, 2, 2022 (once a week every Monday)
  • Fall Session Dates: Monday, September 19, 2022 through October 31, 2022 (once a week every Monday)


The Links at Stono Ferry in Hollywood, SC-
This program was established in the Spring of 2017 by PGA HOPE Lead, Ben Sloan, PGA.

  • Spring Session Dates: Tuesday, March 15, 2022 through April 19, 2022 (ones a week every Tuesday)
  • Fall Session Dates: Tuesday, September 6, 2022 through October 11, 2022 (once a week every Tuesday)


Charleston Municipal Golf Course in Charleston, SC –
This program will be a new location in 2022 which will be run by PGA HOPE Lead, Marshall Ormand, PGA.

  • Spring Session Dates: Tuesday, March 15, 2022 through April 26, 2022 (once a week every Tuesday)

Kiawah Island Golf Resort- Cougar Point in Kiawah Island, SC- This program was established in the Summer of 2018 by PGA HOPE Lead & Carolinas PGA Section Vice President, Josh Wagaman, PGA.

  • Winter Session Dates: Wednesday, January 26, 2022 through March 16, 2022 from 2pm to 4pm(once a week every Tuesday)
  • FEMALE VETERANS ONLY! Spring Session: Monday, May 9, 2022 through Monday, June 6, 2022 from 3pm to 5pm at Cassique Golf Course at Kiawah Island, SC.
  • Summer Session Dates: Tuesday, June 14, 2022 through August 2, 2022 at Cougar Point Golf Course at Kiawah Island, SC (once a week every Wednesday)

Have any questions? Please contact one of the PGA HOPE Lead Professionals above to learn more about their program.

Follow PGA HOPE Charleston along on Facebook to get more involved!

PGA HOPE  Charlotte/Salisbury started in the Spring of 2017 where it was led by PGA HOPE Charlotte/Salisbury Lead Professional, Ryan Brickley, PGA. Due to Ryan Brickley, PGA location to another state for a new job. Ian Bollinger, PGA will be the new PGA HOPE Lead for this program.

Have any questions? Please contact Ian Bollinger, PGA at ian.bollinger257@gmail.com.

PGA HOPE  Columbia started in the Spring of 2018 where it was led by PGA HOPE Columbia Lead Professional, Jim Williams, PGA.

  • 2022 Spring Session Information
    Location:
    The Spur at Northwoods in Columbia, SC
    Dates: Tuesday, March 22, 2022 through Tuesday, May 31, 2022 from 10:00 AM until 12:00 PM
  • 2022 Fall Session Information
    Location:
    The Spur at Northwoods in Columbia, SC
    Dates: TBD but will begin in August of 2022

Have any questions? Please contact Jim Williams, PGA at pgagolf@pga.com.

Follow PGA HOPE Columbia along on Facebook to get more involved!

PGA HOPE  Fayetteville will start in the Fall of 2021 where it will be led by PGA HOPE Fayetteville Lead Professional, Brock White, PGA.

 

  • 2022 Spring Session Information
    Location:
    Methodist University in Fayetteville, NC
    Dates: Friday, February 18, 2022 through April 8, 2022 (once a week every Friday)
  • 2022 Fall Session Information
    Location:
    Methodist University in Fayetteville, NC
    Dates: Friday, September 16, 2022 through November 4, 2022 (once a week every Friday)

Have any questions? Please contact Brock White, PGA at brockwhite@pga.com

PGA HOPE  Greensboro started in the Spring of 2017 where it was led by PGA HOPE Greenbsoro Lead Professionals, Bob Brooks, PGA & Casey Cline, PGA.

  • 2022 Spring Session Information
    Location: Gillespie Golf Club in Greensboro, NC
    Dates: Friday, April 8, 2022 through May 27, 2022 (once a week every Friday)
    Time: 1:00pm to 3:00pm
  • 2022 Fall Session Information
    Location: Gillespie Golf Club in Greensboro, NC
    Dates: Friday, September 2, 2022 through Friday, October 28, 2022 (once a week every Friday)
    Time: 1:00pm to 3:00pm

Have any questions? Please contact Bob Brooks, PGA at Bob.Brooks@greensboro-nc.gov. or Sharon Williams at Sharon.Williams@greensboro-nc.gov

PGA HOPE  Greenville (SC) started in the Spring of 2016 where it was led by PGA HOPE Greenville Lead Professional, Pat Kenny, PGA. Unfortunately, Pat Kenny passed away in the Summer of 2020 due to a heart attack. Pat’s legacy will live on through this program that he has built thanks to the new PGA HOPE Lead Professional, Chris Sitko, PGA.

  • 2022 Spring Session Information
    Location: Carolina Springs Golf Course in Fountain Inn, SC
    Dates: Thursday, May 5, 2022 through June 9, 2022 (once a week every Thursday)

Have any questions? Please contact Chris Sitko, PGA at sitko305@pga.com

PGA HOPE  Moyock is starting Spring of 2021 with a pilot program of 6 Veteran’s to get the word out about this new program where this program is led by PGA HOPE Moyock Lead Professional, Dan Aros, PGA.

Have any questions? Please contact Dan Aros, PGA at dan@eaglecreekgolfing.com

PGA HOPE Myrtle Beach started in the Fall of 2020 where it was led by PGA HOPE Myrtle Beach Lead Professional and Past Carolinas PGA & PGA of America Past President, Gary Schaal, PGA. This program is run through Project Golf Myrtle Beach to serve our nation’s military heroes.

  • 2022 Winter Session Information
    Location:
    Project Golf at Barefoot Resort in Myrtle Beach, SC
    Dates: Tuesday, February 1, 2022 through March 8, 2022 (once a week every Tuesday)
  • 2022 Spring Session Information
    Location:
    Project Golf at Barefoot Resort in Myrtle Beach, SC
    Dates: Tuesday, April 5, 2022 through May 10, 2022 (once a week every Tuesday)
  • 2022 Beginning of Summer Session Information
    Location:
    Project Golf at Barefoot Resort in Myrtle Beach, SC
    Dates: Tuesday, June 7, 2022 through July 12, 2022 (once a week every Tuesday)
  • 2022 End of Summer Session Information
    Location:
    Project Golf at Barefoot Resort in Myrtle Beach, SC
    Dates: Tuesday, August 2, 2022 through September 6, 2022(once a week every Tuesday)
  • 2022 Fall Session Information
    Location:
    Project Golf at Barefoot Resort in Myrtle Beach, SC
    Dates: Tuesday, October 4, 2022 through November 8, 2022 (once a week every Tuesday)

 

Have any questions? Please contact Gary Schaal, PGA at gary.schaal@projectgolf.org

Follow PGA HOPE Myrtle Beach along on Facebook to get more involved!

PGA HOPE Parris Island started in the Fall of 2018 where it was led by PGA HOPE Parris Island Lead Professionals, Dwight Hansen, PGA & Jeff Harris, PGA.

  • 2022 Spring Session Information
    Location:
    The Legends at Parris Island in Parris Island, SC
    Dates: Tuesday, March 8, 2022 through April 12, 2022 (once a week every Tuesday) from 3:30pm to 5:30pm
  • 2022 Fall Session Information
    Location:
    The Legends at Parris Island in Parris Island, SC
    Dates: Tuesday, September 13, 2022 through October 18, 2022 (once a week every Tuesday)

Have any questions? Please contact Jeff Harris, PGA at jeffharris57@me.com.

Follow PGA HOPE Parris Island along on Facebook to get more involved!

PGA HOPE Raleigh will begin this year in August through the leadership of the First Tee of the Triangle.

  • 2022 Summer Session Information
    Location: TriGolf – First Tee of Triangle in Raleigh, NC
    Dates: Wednesday, August 17, 2022 through September 21, 2022 (Once a week every Wednesday)

PGA HOPE Southern Pines started in the Spring of 2018 where it was led by PGA HOPE Southern Pines Lead Professional, Jim Hardy, PGA. Now, we are excited to share the news that Zach Martin, PGA will take on a PGA HOPE Southern Pines Lead Professional.

  • 2022 Spring Session Information
    Location:
    Longleaf Golf & Family Club in Southern Pines, NC
    Dates: Wednesday, March 9, 2022 through April 27, 2022 (once a week every Wednesday)
  • 2022 Fall Session Information
    Location:
    Longleaf Golf & Family Club in Southern Pines, NC
    Dates: Wednesday, August 31, 2022 through October 19, 2022 (once a week every Wednesday)

Have any questions? Please contact Zack Martin, PGA at zmartin@longleafgfc.com.

PGA Member Involvement

Want to be a part of a PGA HOPE program in the Carolinas? Click the link below to learn more!

LEARN MORE

By The Stories

“For me, the PGA HOPE program has been a Godsend. It has allowed me to gain an inner focus, and to begin to control my “rages” of uncontrollable desires. Prior to the program, I had no direction or self-control. In the past year, I have been able to reduce my mental health appointments from twice a month to twice a year. With the help of PGA HOPE, I am now able to focus for days without episodes. PGA HOPE Charleston, with the help of meds, has allowed me to be able to focus like never before. PGA HOPE provides just that… hope for a new direction and the promise of a new life.” – Sam Smargissi, U.S. Air Force (R)

“I had retired and moved to new area where I knew no one. I went to the VA and did group sessions but they only made things worse by bringing up old wounds. Prior to this program, I was functioning, but I had no real purpose. I also was having problems finding friends that could understood what life with PTSD is like. My wife and family sometimes suggested that since it was 45 years ago, it was time to get over it. Of course, they did not understand that PTSD is something you don’t just get over.”

Then one day, I was given a flyer about the PGA HOPE program. I had played golf all my life, but not very well. It was something I enjoyed and knew I could temporarily forget about my problems. Joining the program I found friends who I could talk with, not only on the golf course, but any time day or night. I have made many new friends and now feel like I now have a purpose. As a peer mentor, I can now also help my comrades in arms and together, we help each other get through the bad times, while sharing the good times. – Roland Caramagno, U.S. Army (R)

 

In many ways, it was not until I got around the guys that I truly understood my own PTSD. While we played golf together, we shared our stories and learned that we were not alone. Many of these men and women have gone through hell and with the help of PGA HOPE have come out the other side and now can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Smiles are now on their faces where once there was nothing but anger and frustration. It amazes me that a game of golf, when combined with a few laughs, can bring out the best of these men and women who suffered in silence for far too long. My favorite line from our book, Half Paralyzed, Twice Strong is “I’m here to give a hand up, not a hand out, to those willing to take it.”  – Fred Guitierrez, U.S Navy (R)

 

“I am incredibly thankful for the doors that PGA HOPE Asheville have opened for me. After completing the program last year, I quickly realized how beneficial it was to me. When I started the program last year, I was at my lowest point mentally. I have become unsociable and had given up golf altogether. PGA HOPE Asheville not only got me back into this wonderful game, but it has allowed me to share it with other Veterans. This program has drug me out of a hole that I thought would only get deeper. I genuinely look forward to our sessions every week and I’m more passionate towards golf than I ever was before. So many Veterans could learn and prosper from this program while gaining back a sense a camaraderie in the process. Thank you, PGA HOPE Asheville.” Colton Hensley, U.S. Army (R)

 

The PGA HOPE Program has given me a renewed purpose in life. Some Soldiers have visible wounds were anyone can see a missing part of the body; a wheelchair bound person and those who have prosthetic equipment. Then there are others whose wounds are not visible such as PTSD, anxiety, depression or other mental challenges. The PGA HOPE Program has given us all a sense of new value in life. I am better at interacting with people, creating healthy and happy relationships. My fear of failure has a different perspective now. They have changed to a strong drive to succeed. My self-esteem, self-respect and confidence are much improved. I will do as much as I can to influence other veterans to become a part of this great program. Thank you, PGA HOPE for all you have done for me.” – Larry Clifton, U.S. Army (R) Click here to see a video testimonial from Larry Clifton.

 

No matter what we go through there always is a light of HOPE at the end of the tunnel. When I am upright, for that brief moment of time, I feel normal.”  – Josh Swindle, Army National Guard (R)

 

 


“Seeing somebody cares. I mean you never know what our struggles are…you may not know my individual struggles, you may not know the other Veteran’s individual struggles but you’re taking time to say that you know it exists and you’re taking the time to put a program together for you and man it is special because it’s for me and really thank you all for doing that.”
– Justin Washington, U.S. Navy (R)

 

 

“I used to settle my mind down a lot. I used to have an anger problem when I got out of the military and golf seemed to relax me.” – Doug Robertson, U.S. Army (R) (Far left in photo)

 

 


“I’ve gotten really sick and I got addicted to all the pain meds and everything that they (Doctors) had put me on and I was like this is not for me sitting around and…trying to commit suicide twice and last March I took my first PGA HOPE clinic and I knew then that I had my drive back. I had my need back!”
– Terry Stewart, U.S. Navy (R)

 

Veteran’s Round Table Discussion

One of the purposes of the PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) program is to provide veterans with assistance reintegrating into society following military service. Unfortunately, each day more than twenty of our nation’s veterans commit suicide after losing their battle with PTSD.

Veterans “saddled” with a disability often feel the the weight of stress pushing down on their spirit. Often, they fall into the depths of depression and PTSD that often accompany a traumatic event. This stress can also come from mourning the loss of their independence; feeling the frustration of new physical limitations; and suffering from the financial effects that their condition has on their family.

One of the primary benefits that the program offers veterans is “a moment in time” during which they can focus on learning (or relearning) a new skill, rather than negative feelings and emotions. The group learning environment is also conducive for them to be able to connect with other veterans who have had similar life experiences. Often a high level of trust develops between the new friends; something that had been missing since they left military service. Soon small groups form into fire units; then into squads; and then into larger groups. In many cases, the social aspects of the game of golf have allowed the doors, that they had locked themselves behind, sometimes for decades, to be unlocked.

After watching this phenomenon occur, PGA HOPE Charleston decided to encourage these veterans to stay involved in the program by volunteering to serve as peer mentors to assist the veterans that followed them in the program. We have found that, mentoring a small group of veterans has allowed these peer mentors to continue to make improvements with their own social, psychological, and emotional well-being.

Golf therapy programs provide veterans with wonderful physical benefits too. Some players use golf as a strenuous form of exercise and choose to walk when they play golf. By doing so, they can burn thousands of calories during a round of golf. By walking a golf course once or twice a week they can experience significant weight loss, reduce stress on joints, and improve their strength and stamina. Strenuous exercise can also result in the release of endorphins which reduces pain levels and produces a feeling of well-being.

The benefits of these programs can provide the individual with a sense of taking a positive step forward that improves their overall sense of well-being. In many ways PGA HOPE stands at the front lines in the battle against PTSD on the home front.

In summary, PGA HOPE (and other Golf Therapy programs) is a holistic approach to improving the quality of the individual’s social, psychological, emotional, and physical well-being. The program can be summed up in the following manner: “PGA HOPE Charleston allows veterans to trade nightmares and flashbacks for golf dreams and new friendships.”

 

Written By: Rich O’Brien, Golf Writer
Original Article HERE

Help Us Help Them Get Back in the Game

 

Imagine what it would feel like for an avid golfer to wake up and realize that you are probably never going to be able to play golf again. For many people that would be a very depressing thought.  Unfortunately, each year, a substantial number of golfers become disabled and many of them believe that they will no longer be able to play the game they love.

Anyone that plays the golf knows the therapeutic benefits of the game such as playing a fun and challenging game with friends and family; exercise; and the spectacular views available at many golf courses. There are certainly many wonderful aspects of the game, but, in my mind  probably the most therapeutic is the feeling of well-being that a player gets when they make solid contact.  That wonderful feeling is a key element on why millions of players are so passionate about the game.

Golf therapy offers these benefits and so much more to individuals with disabilities. It offers them hope and the opportunity to improve the quality of their lives by providing a feeling of normalcy and improved self confidence.

After my own accident I received a glimpse of the unique challenges that disabled golfers face while I was on my own long road to recovery. That experience left an indelible mark on me and also filled me with compassion to help individuals with injuries, illnesses, and challenges by being an advocate for them and adaptive golf instructor.

According to US Census Bureau, approximately 57 million Americans (19%) suffer from some form of disability.  Of that total, approximately 18 million of them played golf before suffering their disability.

An important study by the National Center on Accessibility, in conjunction with Clemson University, revealed some eye opening statistics that suggests that there is a strong desire to play golf among the disabled population. Here are some of the highlights from the study:

  • Despite their disability, 10 percent of disabled Americans are currently playing golf (5.7 million);
  • Meanwhile 35 percent of individuals with disabilities are interested in learning how to play golf (19.95 million);
  • Unfortunately, 22 percent of the disabled population played golf prior to becoming disabled, but are no longer playing because of their disability (12.54 million).

The study also identified some key reasons why the individuals that were interested in learning how to play were not currently playing the game.  These included the following:

  • 38 percent stated a need for lessons specific to their disability;
  • 36 percent said that they needed a better understanding of the fundamentals of golf;
  • 33 percent felt uncomfortable about playing in front of others;
  • 31 percent believed that the course staff did not know how to assist them.

The study suggests that there is the opportunity to substantially grow the game of golf by working with individuals with injuries, illnesses, and challenges and giving them the gift of golf.  It also suggests that millions of new players may enjoy the benefits of the game if we give them the gift of adaptive golf. This opportunity has largely been ignored for decades, but I believe that the time has come to provide these programs for individuals with disabilities.

I believe that the greatest gift you can give a person is the gift of your time. According to Dave Windsor of the Adaptive Golf Association and the 2015 PGA National Patriot Award recipient“I knew years ago that golf was more than just a game, but I never imagined the impact that on-going adaptive golf programs could have for so many people. It is very fulfilling to see many of the participants in the program regain a sense of freedom and optimism by attending the clinics. It is thrilling for me personally to be able to provide someone with the gift of golf.  And I think all of the instructors and volunteers in Adaptive Golf and PGA HOPE feel the same way.”

Join the Golf Therapy Movement

A growing number of PGA professionals, physical therapists, sport psychologists, psychologists, and concerned citizens have joined the “Golf Therapy” movement in the past few years and have received special training in adaptive golf instruction and adaptive devices. The training covers a wide variety of disabilities and enables the instructor to be able to provide the individual with the disability with the instruction they need to play the game.  The goal is to help them reintegrate back into society and to improve the quality of their life. We would love to have you join the movement to help get them back on the course following an injury, illness, or challenge.

PGA Professionals are encouraged to contact their PGA Section Office and find out which programs are being offered in the their area and how to get adaptive golf training. I would also like to encourage them to champion a program in their area if there currently is not one available.

If you would like to get involved in the adaptive golf movement, either as a participant, instructor or volunteer, I would encourage you to join our Golf Therapy…Using Golf to Overcome Injuries, Illnesses and Challenges group on Facebook or email me at richobriengolf@gmail.com. This group currently has over 5,000 members and has become a resource for connecting individuals with groups. As the group name implies, the page also highlights inspirational stories about individuals with the indomitable spirit that have improved the quality of their lives through golf as a form of therapy. It is amazing to see what can happen when a community lead by PGA Professionals, physical therapists and concerned citizens wraps their arms around these individuals and lends a helping hand.

Golf truly has the power to change people’s lives.  Personally, I cannot think of a more worthy cause than that to lend my time, talents or treasure to than to help wounded vets and others get back in the game.

 

Written By: Rich O’Brien, Golf Writer
Original Article HERE

PGA HOPE Has The Power To Transform Lives of Veterans

Bill Young served four years as an artilleryman in the United States Marines. He was stationed at Marine Base Camp Lejeune as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 10th Marines of the 2nd Marine Division. His unit deployed to Iraq in 2008. During the troop surge to Afghanistan in 2009, the battalion suffered a difficult deployment as several Marines and his Sergeant Major lost both legs when they were severely wounded in an IED explosion. 

His unit deployed to Iraq in 2008. Upon returning stateside they were tasked with building a new artillery unit, Fox Battery, from the ground up as they prepared for the troop surge to Afghanistan in 2009. Fox Battery was not among those deployed in the surge. 3rd Battalion had a difficult deployment, as they lost several Marines and his Sergeant Major lost both legs and was severely wounded in an IED explosion. 

Research has shown that combat veterans are at high risk for developing Post-Traumatic Stress.  In fact, 20% of the combat veterans returning from deployment in Iraq have developed Post-Traumatic Stress. IEDs were a constant concern for everyone and the resulting blast waves regularly caused mild to moderate Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) from the brain being rattled inside the skull. A few years after Bill left the Marines in 2010 he was diagnosed with severe PTSD.

In 2010 Bill decided to leave the Marine Corps and used his Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to attend North Carolina State University where he earned a BS in Economics in 2014.  Equipped with this new expertise he became a financial planner with AXA Advisors and he was a big part of one of the Top 10 teams for the company nationwide. 

Sadly 22 veterans a day commit suicide as a result of their PTSD. Since Bill left the Marine Corps in 2010, eleven of his friends and colleagues from the Marines have taken their own lives.  Survivor’s guilt combined with working a stressful job contributed to a growing frustration within him. He quickly realized that he needed urgent help to avoid becoming a statistic himself. 

Getting care from the VA became an overwhelming and exhausting task.  On a number of occasions, his frustration boiled over when local VA employees did not share the same sense of urgency for helping veterans with PTSD. He also felt his outbursts were becoming a distraction to his team members. Bill decided that if he was going to get healthy, that he’d need to leave his job with AXA Advisors and slow life down.  

In late summer of 2017, he began Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and he was asked by the therapist to find a distraction; he chose golf. He wasn’t very good, but the score did not matter at the time. He had heard about the PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) Program from his therapist and they suggested that he get a referral from the Recreation Therapist at the Raleigh VA.  In order to get that referral, he would have to wait six weeks to get an appointment. Again they just did not seem to understand the urgency of providing HOPE to veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress.

That is when he discovered PGA HOPE while watching an interview of PGA HOPE Coordinator Chris Nowack on Golf Channel. He called Chris who referred him to Jessica Asbury who then referred him to PGA HOPE Charleston. Bill immediately called us and told us that he planned to spend two months in Charleston to completely immersing himself in intensive Golf Therapy and he asked us to mentor him. We arranged for him to attend three of the four clinics that Spring; Mondays (Daniel Island), Tuesdays (Stono Ferry), and Fridays (Wescott).  

By the end of the two months in Charleston, Bill’s life had been radically transformed on and off the golf course. On the course, Bill shot his best round of 85 the week before he went back to Raleigh. Meanwhile, his average score had been reduced from 115 to about 89.  Armed with a growing passion for the game, the golf course has become his happy place.  The camaraderie also made him feel so welcome that he decided to move to Charleston permanently. That might be the highest endorsement anyone can give to a PGA HOPE program.

The Golf Therapy program provided benefits to Bill that went far beyond the golf course. According to Bill, “PGA HOPE has been extremely beneficial for helping me learn new ways to work through the challenges and obstacles associated with living with PTSD. I’ve tried many forms of therapy, but golf therapy combined with acupuncture has been the most helpful; especially when the mental aspects of golf are tied to life lessons. This type of healing has been incredibly helpful and has provided insight for dealing with the bunker shots that life can throw my way.”

Young added, “When you set up over the ball, for that moment in time, you’re not thinking about anything except hitting the ball. Our instructors emphasized simple swing thoughts which provided even more clarity for that moment in time! I find it interesting that one of the most routine things about golf can be one of the most therapeutic for individuals with PTSD.”

During his stay in the Holy City, he was also introduced to a faith-based program by one of the other veterans.  As part of that program, Bill participated in a bible study and it helped him find some answers and alleviated some doubts.  It was another tool in his belt to help him mitigate his Post-Traumatic Stress. 

Josh Wagaman, Lead Professional for the Kiawah Island chapter of PGA HOPE and South Carolinas PGA Education Committee Chairman adds “PGA HOPE has given Bill the outlet he needed in golf and in life.  Bill has made such dramatic improvements on and off the golf course and has become a leader in our program and our Kiawah Island PGA HOPE Cup team.”

Bill would like to strongly advise and encourage any veterans struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress to reach out to their local PGA HOPE chapter. If their experience is anything like his, they’ll certainly get more than just golf instruction!  Simply put, PGA HOPE has the power to transform the lives of veterans.

Bill would like to strongly advise and encourage any veterans struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress to reach out to their local PGA HOPE chapter. If their experience is anything like his, they’ll certainly get more than just golf instruction!  Simply put, PGA HOPE has the power to transform the lives of veterans.

 

Written By: Rich O’Brien, Golf Writer
Original Article HERE

Friendships, Dreams, and Victories

Instructor training for PGA HOPE Charleston was held at Kiawah Island Resort on Monday, April 9th.

For me, it was a tremendous event that showed the power of Golf Therapy to bring people together and be a tremendous therapeutic tool to help our veterans and others with injuries, illnesses, or challenges.

In like to use three words to describe why Golf Therapy works so well; friendships, dreams, and victories.

Friendships, especially among the veterans and the instructors, let them know that someone cares about them and has their back. The friendships among brothers and sisters of our armed forces also comes from a place where they have shared life experiences and know what it is like to cope with conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD).

Dreams are so important because PTSD creates toxic memories that drain the life out of a person because of nightmares and flashbacks constantly replaying images of the worst day of their lives. Golf Therapy allows individuals with PTSD to trade nightmares and flashbacks for golf dreams and new friendships. For many people, it reduces their nightmares and flashbacks by as much as 80%. When combined with acupuncture it is possibly the most effective treatment for PTSD.

Dreams are also important because it allows them to create new goals and dreams to help individuals move forward instead of always looking back. One such dream for Fred Gutierrez and I was PGA HOPE Charleston.

Finally, victories are an important element because it might mean overcoming an addiction to painkillers or other drugs; it might mean an improved quality of life for the person AND their family members; it might be a renewed sense of purpose; and it might also mean a reduction in the 22 suicides as veterans learn a new way to save their own lives.

The instructor training at Kiawah Island represented a number of victories for me. In a nutshell, it was friendships, dreams, and victories playing out a grand scale. My friendship with Fred helped both of us recover from our injuries.

Golf as therapy helped us trade nightmares and flashbacks for golf dreams and new friendships and created the dream that would eventually become our mission in PGA HOPE Charleston and Golf Therapy. With the start of the clinics at Kiawah Resort and Kiawah Island Club our dream continues to grow as they will provide a great venue for our veterans during the summer and winter series. It will be the fifth venue in the Charleston helping our veterans. Two of my students, Fred Gutierrez and Josh Swindle, also both put on tremendously inspiring mini-clinics and taught PGA Pros what helps them.

There was a very personal victory for me at Cassique as the training was taking place only one hole away (600 yards) from where my accident occurred and Golf Therapy journey began nine and a half years ago on day that was errily similar. Despite such close proximity, I did not feel tense at all because my accident no longer limits me. The outdoor training was supposed to take place at Osprey Point, but was switched to the PAD due to the threat of inclement weather. It was unplanned, but turned out to be a wonderful culmination of the events of a wonderful day. It was a wonderful NEW memory to replace an old memory associated with Cassique. And the clinic represents the start of creating many wonderful NEW memories down at Kiawah Island for veterans participating in the program in the years to come.

 

Written By: Rich O’Brien, Golf Writer
Original Article HERE

PGA HOPE Helps to Improve the Quality of Life of Veterans

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 what they experience. As a result of feeling alone, every day twenty-two Veterans, on average, lose their battle with Post-Traumatic Stress.

Photo Credit Grace Beahm Alford

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.

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.  The mission of the program is to introduce golf to Veterans with disabilities to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. Veterans are introduced to golf through a developmental 6-8 week curriculum by specially trained PGA Professionals. The lesson series is free to all Veterans as the program is funded through 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.

Starting with a handful of programs, the PGA HOPE program has grown to where there are currently 132 host sites in 37 chapters of the PGA of America that serve approximately 3,000 Veterans nationwide.

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 Charleston 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 and has been featured on CBS Sports.

I have seen firsthand how 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 has their back has helped save their lives, while for others it has helped them overcome addictions that probably would have ended their lives.

As you can see, PGA HOPE can greatly improve the quality of life of our Veterans and we owe that to those that have protected us both at home and abroad.  I would encourage every community to start a PGA HOPE Program.

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, pgareach.org/services/military.

 

Written By: Rich O’Brien, Golf Writer
Original Article HERE

Paul Suggs Now Shared the Gospel of PGA HOPE

Paul Suggs’ family has a proud tradition of patriotism and service to the country. Following his father’s retirement from the Air Force the family finally settled in Mellow Valley, Alabama.

Paul received his calling in ministry early and preached his first sermon at the age of 16. After graduating from high school he attended seminary at Gateway College of Evangelism in St. Louis. During his tenure at Gateway, he evangelized extensively throughout the midwest. Following graduation, he spent the next four years serving as a youth pastor, assistant pastor, and associate pastor for a number of churches in Indiana, Ohio, and North Carolina.

It was while he was in North Carolina that Paul felt drawn to his familial bonds of the military service. He joined the U.S. Army and was such a good shot that from the beginning of basic training he was being actively recruited for Special Forces. He declined their offer and, instead, received training in Communications at Ft. Gordan in Augusta, GA. His superior knowledge and ability to repair all communication systems were an extremely valuable commodity and he eventually wound up supporting Special Forces in and out of the thick of it. Paul adds: “The things I experienced literally rewired my brain. Guilt, shame, and of course the onslaught of nightmares ensued.”

Eventually, Paul was awarded elite posting at the Pentagon as part of the Information System Command where he was responsible for maintaining the communication link between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the White House. It was there that Paul earned the nickname, “Macgyver” for his ability to solve problems.

Toward the end of his military career, Paul met his bride-to-be Tabitha and transitioned into civilian life. The couple moved to Charleston, SC and he joined the Army National Guard. While serving one weekend a month Paul helped design cell towers, telephone companies, and cable companies for Alcoa. He also returned to the ministry and served as part of the Redemption Network, various men’s ministries and during a sabbatical, he landed at Calvary Chapel of Charleston in North Charleston. Paul has spent many years teaching in various capacities there. Also part of Paul’s ministry work is his company BlueSky LLC which is a ministry that has provided employment for men and women from local area churches, Veterans, and supported missionaries from around the world. One of the programs that Blue Sky is now financially supporting is the PGA HOPE Charleston program.

Paul adds, “After transitioning to civilian life I thought that he could leave it all behind, but the nightmares and flashbacks kept clawing at me and would show itself through the facade I built. I prayed and fasted but I was too proud ever to show my weakness.”

Two years ago, when Paul first discovered PGA HOPE his scores were over 150, but with the help of the professional instructors in the program, Paul has made rapid progress to where he now regularly shoots in the low-to-mid 80s and occasionally even in the 70s. His amazing progress on the golf course, however, pales in comparison to improvements that he has experienced in the quality of his life.

Being in the PGA HOPE program encouraged him to do a lot of self-examination and provided a pathway for him to seek treatment for his only recently diagnosed Chronic PTSD. He feels he benefits from having fellow Veterans as accountability partners. He also realized that you don’t have to be perfect to serve. He says, “from the bottom of my heart, I believe that PGA HOPE has been one of the best things to help my marriage, help me spiritually, and develop as a man.”

He recently shared a secret that he had kept hidden for over 20 years. You see on one particularly bad night he wound up on the roof of the Pentagon intending to commit suicide. If not for a strong wind gust that threw him backward into a vent pipe breaking his collarbone he may have walked off the ledge. You see Paul knows first-hand that soldiers never want to show weakness and how it can lead to suicidal thoughts.

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Spiritual support is very important to healing the mind, body, and soul of our Veterans. Last year, Paul was named to the Board of Directors for PGA HOPE Charleston and is also the program’s Chaplain. As part of this ministry, Paul will lead a group of pastors from around the Lowcountry that have joined the mission of HOPE and they will be leading Bible studies and providing spiritual support for our Veterans. Paul is currently in the process of selling BlueSky so he can devote more of his time to the growing ministry of PGA HOPE Charleston.

Last year, while serving as a volunteer at the 2019 PGA Professionals Championship he was interviewed by Kay Cockerill of Golf Channel and during that interview, he passionately recommended that his fellow disabled veterans participate in a PGA HOPE chapter in their area. He considers his involvement in PGA HOPE as one of the highest achievements of his life. As the Chaplain for PGA HOPE Charleston, he now shares the gospel of PGA HOPE.

How Can You Help?

In order to be able to assist as many Veterans as possible, it will take a total community effort. We would love to partner with as many churches as possible to increase awareness of this life-saving ministry and for churches to provide volunteer and/or monetary support for our ministry. If you are interested in helping in the ministry of HOPE, please contact Paul at paul.suggs@gmail.com for more information.

 

Written By: Rich O’Brien, Golf Writer
Original Article HERE

“PGA HOPE Saved My Life”

You never know when you have the opportunity to save someone’s life. Five years ago, I was eating lunch in Italian Bistro in Summerville when my waitress overheard me speaking to a Veteran about the PGA HOPE program. She told me that her husband, a retired Marine, could really benefit from the program. Milissa Burge told me that she had gone back to work because her husband had lost his job and was in recovery from opiates. A few days later, Bill was attending a mandatory aftercare program at the VA following 37 days of inpatient rehab. While at the VA he met Roland Caramagno, one of the Veterans in the PGA HOPE program, and they started a conversation about the program.

That afternoon, Bill “Gunny” Burge gave me a call about joining PGA HOPE. He told me he was born and raised in Summerville and participated in most all sports through high school playing baseball and basketball at Summerville High School. He even had an offer to play “ball” for Coach Bill Bustle at the Baptist College.

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Following graduation, however, Bill chose instead to enlist in the United States Marine Corps and headed off to basic training at Parris Island. After boot camp, infantry training, and aircrew school, Bill was sent to HQMC Flight Section at Andrews Air Force Base where he met his wife. He would go on to serve 21 years. Following his military service, the couple returned to Summerville to raise their five children. Bill and Milissa recently celebrated their 41st Anniversary and have 7 grandchildren with one more on the way.

While on active-duty, Bill had two cervical spine surgeries which led to chronic pain and dependence on Opiates. Prior to finding PGA HOPE, he had lost interest in golf for 12 years due to the pain and depression.

Bill found PGA HOPE Wescott in the fall of 2016 and since then his life has changed for the better in so many ways. PGA HOPE clinics rekindled his love of golf. Fred Gutierrez has become a brother and mentor and their friendship has been critical for his recovery. Fred also helped lead him back to Christ. It didn’t take long before Bill was ready to take the next step and serve as a peer mentor himself. For those battling addiction, mentoring others is an extremely important step in the recovery process.

Last year, Perry Green asked him to become the lead peer mentor for Wescott. According to Bill, “The assignment helped give me a purpose and reason to get up EVERY morning. I am also currently the USMC Rep for the Advisory Committee for PGA HOPE Charleston. While on the Advisory Committee, I wrote the Veteran’s Code of Conduct and co-authored the Peer Mentor Training Syllabus.” Bill also took on the responsibility of organizing a weekly golf outing for the Veterans throughout the year.

This past March, “Coach Perry” asked Bill to serve as a volunteer assistant coach for his youth golf camps and for Wescott’s PGA Junior League team. “Coach Gunny” quickly became a favorite of the kids. Perry Green added, “Gunny has also been very persistent in getting me out to play golf on a regular basis. He has made a world of difference as it re-energized my enthusiasm for playing the game. I owe Gunny a lot.” It seems like sometimes the best medicine is having enthusiastic and persistent friends that believe in you and have fun spending time with you.

Each year, the PGA HOPE program puts on a national championship called the Secretary’s Cup. In order to qualify, teams must win their PGA section’s HOPE Cup. Back in 2018, Perry Green put together a special team to play with him to represent Wescott that included Bill, Fred Gutierrez, “Coach” Doug Robertson, and Jesse Duff. In preparation for the event, the team would play together at least once a week in the event’s captain’s choice format. It was during those weekly rounds that the team cemented their bonds of friendship and became a team that would be extremely tough to beat.

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The PGA REACH Carolinas HOPE Cup was held on Veteran’s Day at Pinehurst Resort where the teams faced brutal weather conditions with temperatures in the 30’s and steady rain. On the final hole, Bill made a crucial 15-foot sidehill putt to tie Kiawah Island for first and then won in a scorecard playoff to earn the honor of representing the Carolinas Section in the 2019 Secretary’s Cup the following May at the PGA Championship. In the spring, the team traveled to New York City to compete for the national championship at Bethpage but the weather felt more like the winter as it was again extremely cold and damp. In the difficult conditions, Team Wescott lapped the field winning by two shots to claim the national championship. The team may not have had the best players in the field but they had the most FUN and they were the best-prepared team. For the victory, each member of the team received a Star-Spangled Banner Blue Blazer. They all felt like they had just won the Masters.

During the past year, Bill along with Fred Gutierrez has taken on the additional role of representing PGA HOPE Charleston as PGA HOPE continues to grow in the Carolinas and Coastal Georgia area and they have been asked to assist in standing up new chapters at Parris Island, Myrtle Beach, and Dublin, Georgia.

Bill adds, “I’m five years clean now and I credit my faith in God, my wife Milissa, my good friends Perry Green and Rich O’Brien, my brother Fred Gutierrez, and PGA HOPE for saving my life.”

Now, Bill is one of those showing other Veterans how they can learn how to save their own lives.

 

Written By: Rich O’Brien, Golf Writer
Original Article HERE

Golf Has Changed My Life and My Perspective

Sam Smargissi has been part of our PGA HOPE Charleston program for over five years now. HOPE stands for Helping Our Patriots Everywhere. Sam was referred to the program by the Charleston VA and the combination of counseling and being among Veterans in a recreation environment has had a very positive effect on the quality of his life. There is something very therapeutic for Veterans having fun while in a recreation therapy-type program with other Veterans. Sam has said about this about PGA HOPE, “You feel whole; you feel one; now you feel like you have your game back with life because we are together again.”

As a corollary benefit of participating in the PGA HOPE program, Sam began to experience a phenomenon that we have seen many times among the Veterans in our program in that he began to trade nightmares and flashbacks for golf dreams and new friendships.

It was after Sam learned about the amazing benefits of acupuncture for Post Traumatic Stress and other conditions that he found a new tool to help him further mitigate his PTSD. When he learned how inflammation is one of the primary causes of disease, he started to find keys that unlocked some of the heavier chains that had bound him his whole life. It was then that he started a special diet to eliminate as much inflammation as possible from his body. He has now lost 60 pounds and many of his health issues related to inflammation have “melted away” into thin air.

Over the past few years, the combination of mental health counseling through the VA, learning to play golf along with on-going Veterans golf outings, acupuncture, and the elimination of as much inflammation as possible has resulted in him being much healthier, taking significantly less medication, and having a much clearer mind. It literally has completely transformed the quality of Sam’s life. By the way, his golf scores have also improved from the 150s to the 80s but when measuring the success of our Golf Therapy program here in Charleston that is secondary to improving the quality of lives of our Veterans.

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It has been my honor to be one of Sam’s guides along this road to recovery. Although I am not a Veteran, I come from a military family, and following a serious accident I walked this long road to recovery on my own. My recovery included 12,000 hours of rehab, an exhausting battle against PTSD, and a serious addiction to Opioids. For me, the program has always been a ministry to bring HOPE to the lost souls wounded in service of our nation. It has truly been my honor to lend my experience and expertise to the Veterans in this unique capacity.

What has developed here in Charleston has been a truly unique holistic approach combined with the inspiration and coaching from a pair of survivors (Fred Gutierrez and I) that has worked wonders. To date, about a dozen Veterans have told us that they are alive today because of the program. I can’t think of a better cause to be able to lend my time, talent, and treasure. It truly is a great way to welcome our Veterans home and say thank you to them for their service and sacrifice to our nation.

 

Written By: Rich O’Brien, Golf Writer
Original Article HERE

You Are Our Hero

Bobby Medlen was born and raised in the Huntsville, Alabama area. While attending high school, he began his career at Hardee’s over 47 years ago as an hourly employee. Over the course of the next several years, he worked his way up through the ranks to become an assistant manager, general manager, district manager, and regional director of operations.

Shortly after getting married to his wife, Kathy, he accepted a district manager position with Hardee’s in 1980 and the couple moved to Myrtle Beach, SC. He held positions ranging from district manager to regional director of operations until 1999 when he moved to the franchise side of the business as the Chief Operating Officer for Carolina Food Systems that operated several Hardee’s restaurants in the Florence, SC area. Based in Summerville, SC from 1988 until 2006 the couple’s two children, Jennifer and Daniel graduated from Stratford High School in Goose Creek, SC.

Bobby’s and Kathy’s next move was to Georgia in February of 2007 when Buddy Brown purchased 18 Hardee’s restaurants in the Atlanta market and hired him as his Director of Operations. Over the following twelve years, through acquisition of existing Hardee’s restaurants and construction of new locations Capstone Restaurant Group headed up by Buddy Brown, Principal Partner and CEO, Todd Pahl, Partner and CFO along with Operating Partners Max Soria and Bobby have grown to Hardee’s second-largest franchisee operating 260 Hardee’s and 8 Carl’s Jr restaurants in 16 states.

In recent years, Bobby’s focus has been balancing family life with his work responsibilities. Jennifer’s husband Joe and Daniel’s wife Sara have become as close as their own children and their 4 grandchildren, Abigail, McCarron, Graham, and Sully Kate are their pride and joy. The older he gets, the more important spending as much time with his family as possible has become.

About five years ago, Bobby’s granddaughter Abigail began participating in the junior golf programs at the Golf Club at Wescott. It was then that Hardee’s and Capstone Restaurant Group began sponsoring the junior program. At about the same time, the PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) program was being founded here in Charleston and the program’s first five Veterans were graduating. After hearing about PGA HOPE, Bobby suggested that Perry Green meet him over coffee to discuss what the partners of Capstone wanted to do and how it could help the new HOPE program. At that meeting, he told Perry that they wanted to host a fundraiser at Wescott that would bring together Hardee’s franchisees and vendors to raise money for both PGA HOPE Charleston and provide Paramobiles through Stand Up and Play for Veterans and others in the Charleston area with mobility challenges.

Since its inception in 2016, “The Chip-In For Veterans Golf Classic” has raised over $400,000 to benefit Stand Up and Play Foundation’s Lowcountry Chapter and PGA HOPE Charleston. As a direct result of the tournament, paramobiles are now available for use at ten courses in the Charleston area making the Lowcountry the most accessible area in the world for wheelchair golfers. The Chip-In For Veterans Tournament has also helped PGA HOPE Charleston to grow to become the model for the PGA of America’s flagship military outreach program with five host sites and 500 graduates.

Nine years ago, Hardee’s and Carl’s Junior’s started the Stars For Heroes campaign in which participating restaurants ask customers to purchase a star for a $1 donation to help raise money to support Veterans programs. To date, the program has raised nearly $9 million to help heroes both locally and nationally. One of the beneficiaries nationally of the Stars For Heroes Program from its inception has been the Stand Up and Play Foundation. For the past three years, PGA HOPE Charleston has also been fortunate to be one of the local military charities supported by a Stars For Heroes grant to support our nation’s Veterans.

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Thanks in large part to the Capstone Foundation partnering with the Carolinas PGA Section to provide HOPE, the program truly is helping to save the lives of dozens of Veterans whether they have mobility challenges, PTSD, addictions, or are facing other challenges.

For our Veterans, especially those with PTSD, spending as much time with their brothers and sisters in arms is also very important too and helps save their lives.

According to Bobby, “It is truly an honor for Buddy, Todd, Max, and I and all the Team Members at Capstone Restaurants Group to provide support to military veterans, first responders, and their families, through our Chip In For Veterans Golf event and other programs”

On October 30th, Perry Green of PGA HOPE Charleston made a special presentation to Bobby Medlen of Capstone Foundation of a personalized PGA HOPE golf bag as a special thank you for everything that he has done for PGA HOPE Charleston. As Perry said, “Saying thanks to Bobby Medlen and Hardee’s just doesn’t cover it. They are a huge part of PGA HOPE Charleston and have been from the beginning. Thanks, Bobby! You are always our hero!”

 

Written By: Rich O’Brien, Golf Writer
Original Article HERE

“One of the Most Humbling Experiences I’ve Ever Been Part Of”

Over the past six years, the number of PGA HOPE chapters nationwide has grown from a handful to where there are now 173 chapters listed on the PGA REACH website including 15 chapters in the Carolinas section to lead all PGA Sections.  

This summer, PGA HOPE Kiawah Island hosted their inaugural Female Veterans Program which is only the second women’s-only program in PGA HOPE following the groundbreaking Clearview HOPE program in Canton, Ohio which was founded by Renee Powell.  The Kiawah Island women’s clinics were hosted by Briana Niemann (PGA/LPGA), an Assistant Golf Professional at Cassique at the Kiawah Island Club. Her team included Kiawah Island Club Director of Instruction Carol Preisinger (LPGA), Jenn Weiland (PGA), and Amanda Romano (PGA) from Kiawah Island Golf Resort to provide our female Veterans an exclusive PGA HOPE Program just for them, taught by women.

The idea for this program began a few years ago with a request from Dr. Florence Hutchinson, the recently retired Chief of Staff of the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center.  She saw the positive impact that PGA HOPE Charleston was having for our Veterans in the Lowcountry and suggested the addition of a women’s-only group.  The five-week program started with four women Veterans but grew to eight by graduation day five weeks later.

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Word of mouth is the best form of advertising and this is what the women are sharing about their experience in the program with their fellow female Veterans:

One of the participants said, “I’ve been waiting forever for something like this. To have an all-women’s program taught by women, it’s absolutely wonderful.”  Another added, “I have never played golf with another woman before. I didn’t know others played, let alone would want to play with me. Now I have seven others to play with.” While a third summed it up “I’m loving it; I really am.  We all enjoyed it. It was just a fabulous experience.”

The reactions from the instructors were also very positive as Jenn Weiland said, “There are no words to describe this program, other than it’s a community of women willing to let their walls down and be a part of something bigger. These women are incredible. I’m so grateful for this experience.”  Meanwhile, Amanda Romano told the ladies, “We wouldn’t be able to do what we do, without what you’ve done. It is our pleasure to be able to give back in this way. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”

No alt text provided for this imagePGA REACH Carolinas Coordinator, Jessica Asbury added, “The Carolinas PGA is proud to have PGA and LPGA Members such as Briana Neimann, Amanda Romano, Jenn Weiland, and Carol Preisinger that want to give back to those who sacrificed so much. We are very lucky to have these ladies in the Carolinas!”

Briana Niemann added, “This program started with an idea, it was brought to life, and hopefully it will inspire other areas, locations, and chapters to follow suit. There is a demand for something like this, and we can only HOPE that by getting the ball rolling, our Female Veterans everywhere will know they are loved, cherished, and appreciated and that PGA HOPE is in fact for them too. Seeing this program grow from an idea to reality is one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever been a part of.”

 

Written By: Rich O’Brien, Golf Writer
Original Article HERE

Life of Service

From an early age, Harold Hill has believed that he could make a difference in his community.   While barely a teenager back in the early 1960s he became a member of the United States Sea Cadet Corps at the Charleston Naval Shipyard and in 1969 was selected the youngest Sea Cadet of the Year.  Hill was offered the opportunity to attend the Naval Academy but instead chose to begin his college career at the College of Charleston where he became the school’s first black student to swim collegiately in 1972.  He would later transfer to the Citadel where he eventually earned his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts (1989) and his Master’s degree in Education (2002).

In 1976, he began his career in law enforcement as a patrol officer with the Charleston Police Department. Three years later, he gained a position with the SC Law Enforcement Division as a Special Agent assigned to narcotics enforcement where he served for seven years before returning to the Charleston Police Department and rose to the rank of Lieutenant before retiring in 2012 after a distinguished 35-year career in law enforcement.

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While serving in law enforcement, Harold simultaneously served one weekend a month for 31 years in the Coast Guard Reserve as a Chief Maritime Enforcement Specialist working as the liaison between the Navy, BP Oil, Coast Guard, and Civilian Contractors. He conducted numerous assignments involving inspecting commercial ships entering the Charleston Harbor searching for stowaways and contraband, as well as compliance with Federal Regulations.  Among the special operations that he was called to active duty were Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, St. Thomas Virgin Islands hurricane relief efforts, and beach clean-up efforts after the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico. Shortly before retiring from the Coast Guard in 2011, Harold received the Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his untiring commitment to the massive cleanup efforts at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.

In 2016, at the age of 62, Harold decided to take a few golf lessons at Wrenwoods Golf Course on the Charleston Air Force Base. You could say that Harold became addicted to the game of golf and almost every day since he can be seen swinging a club trying to improve his golf game.

Back in early 2018, Harold was speaking to a retired Veteran that had participated in PGA HOPE Charleston. He was told that PGA HOPE stands for Helping Our Patriots Everywhere and that the program is the flagship military outreach program of PGA REACH. He became very interested when the Veteran shared with him that participation in the program can change, and possibly even save, lives. That afternoon, Harold called and volunteered to help serve his fellow Veterans that have disabilities.

After receiving the peer mentor training in early 2018, he has been instrumental in serving his fellow Veterans at Stono Ferry in the fall and spring and at Kiawah Island in the winter and summer.  That fall, he was voted the Coast Guard Representative for PGA HOPE Charleston’s Veterans Committee by his peers.  Later, he was selected as a lead peer mentor for the Kiawah Island site. This past May, when the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island hosted the 2021 PGA Championship, Harold was selected as a Hole Captain for the 5th hole which was the hole where the Veterans from PGA HOPE Charleston were serving. During the tournament, he coordinated the activities of over 30 Veterans.

This past fall, he was nominated by Kiawah Island Lead Professional, Josh Wagaman, to become a PGA HOPE Carolinas Ambassador for the Carolinas PGA Section. Wagaman added, “Harold has been a true role model not just for fellow Veterans but also for the PGA Professionals in the program.  Simply put, Harold has exemplified what it means to be a PGA HOPE mentor.  Harold’s compassion and leadership in his role with PGA HOPE is really just a carryover from his career in the military and in law enforcement.”

Much to Hill’s surprise, he was selected by the PGA REACH Carolinas committee from among the 15 nominees. In mid-October, he attended the PGA HOPE National Golf & Wellness Week along with 19 other new ambassadors from PGA sections across the country. Each day began early and ended late, filled with many aspects of golf and how the sport of golf can help change the lives of our Veterans and possibly save lives. The experiences and the lessons learned at the PGA HOPE National Golf & Wellness Week are something that Harold will hold near and dear to him for the rest of his life. He is externally grateful for such a life-changing experience.

During PGA HOPE National Golf & Wellness Week, the training revealed that he has post-traumatic stress, namely survivor’s guilt, which would be expected from a caring individual with a 35-year career in law enforcement and 31 years in the Coast Guard Reserves. The training provided him with some tools to be able to help himself as well as other Veterans.

Helping Veterans reintegrate back into society after military service and also helping to reduce the number of suicide victims in our community has been lifelong endeavors for him. He is fully committed to the mission of PGA HOPE and shares it every chance he gets with anyone that will listen.  He adds, “No day would be complete without a discussion of golf and PGA HOPE.”

PGA REACH Carolinas Coordinator, Jessica Asbury added, “Harold has truly been a remarkable PGA HOPE Carolinas Ambassador. His eagerness to spread HOPE to our Carolinas PGA members and the Veteran community is impactful and we are very grateful to have Harold a part of the PGA HOPE Carolinas family.”

From a young age, Harold Hill wanted to make a difference in his community. He has done that, and his life of service has been a Godsend to many Veterans and the entire Lowcountry community.

 

Written By: Rich O’Brien, Golf Writer
Original Article HERE

For more information regarding PGA HOPE Carolinas, please contact PGA REACH Carolinas Program Director, Jessica Asbury at jasbury@pgahq.com or at (336) 398-2848.