Veterans Colton Hensley and Harold Hill are graduates of the PGA HOPE Program, a program that aims to improve Veterans’ quality of life by enhancing their mental, social, physical, and emotional well-being.
As PGA HOPE Ambassadors, Hensley and Hill represent the Carolinas PGA Section and support their fellow Veterans in communities across the section during PGA HOPE clinics, training programs and events.
Key responsibilities for the new PGA HOPE Ambassadors include:
Branch of Service: Army
Years of Service: 4 years
PGA HOPE Program: PGA HOPE Asheville
Favorite Hobby: Golf
See Hensley featured in the PGA HOPE National Golf & Wellness Week Recap (2022).
“I am incredibly thankful for the doors that PGA HOPE Asheville have opened for me. After completing the program, I quickly realized how beneficial it was to me. When I started the program, I was at my lowest point mentally. I had 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)
Colton Hensley high fives Troy Brin at the East Potomac Golf Links on October 14, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/PGA of America)
“There’s no shame in my game,” he says.
“When you get home, you start to let your wall down, and it hits you in a different way than you expected,” Hensley said. “It didn’t take me any time whatsoever to get addicted. Losing those guys took the air out of me. I was done.”
“I constantly was trying to make guilt go away by using drugs as much as I possibly could,” he said. “Then I had shame for being locked up. People like me aren’t supposed to be here, but here I am. Now I feel worse about my service because I’m sitting in prison. A lot of guys went on to do good things, and here I am selling all my stuff to pay for drugs.”
Branch of Service: Coast Guard
Years of Service: 31 years
PGA HOPE Program: PGA HOPE Charleston
Favorite Hobby: Golf
See Hill featured in the 2021 Herb Graffis Award – Carolinas PGA Section video (2021).
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.
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 Coordinator Mia Hayasaki at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (336)398-2848.