Disabled veterans discover 'Hope' through golf program

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle
  • 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Losing a part of yourself, literally or figuratively, can be hard to imagine. Being confined to a wheelchair, not being able to get around without the use of a walker, or struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder is a harsh reality many disabled veterans face every day.

Through the Professional Golfers' Association of America Hope Program, disabled veterans are able to regain a part of what they had lost.

This program helps disabled veterans, such as retired U.S. Army battery clerk Duane Poser, reclaim something missing from their lives.

"I've been golfing for approximately 60 to 65 years," said Poser. "I used to play five days a week. I would get off work at 1 p.m., and was on the golf course by 1:30."

The PGA Hope Program is designed to help introduce or reintroduce disabled veterans to golf and help them work around any physical limitations they might have.

"It was a relief to get back out on the golf course," said Poser. "This is the first time I've really been out golfing in about three years. It gives me a feeling that maybe I can make it back."

Experiences like Poser's are examples of how the program benefits its participants.

"Disabled veterans benefit the most from this program because they are being shown or taught that even with limitations they have, they're able to come out and play a game of golf," said Steve Griffith, 99th Force Support Squadron Sunrise Vista Golf Course manager. "It may not be a full 18-hole round, it could just be four holes on a par three or hitting on the driving range."

Griffith went on to add it further benefits disabled veterans by getting them some exercise that may be required for physical therapy, while also providing a little camaraderie by meeting people within the program.

"We want to get anybody out here we can, even if it's just hitting balls on the range," said Griffith. "Get them to come out and enjoy some fresh air, exercise, and have fun with their peers. Most of these guys just want to tell a story."

The PGA Hope Program is designed to help all levels of golfers, from beginners to those who've been playing for years.

"We have the ability to use solo-rider golf carts, which are handicapped-aided carts," said Griffith. "If an individual is using a walker or confined to a wheelchair we can strap them to a golf cart and it will motorize them and put them in a standing position to make a swing. As long as a participant has mobility in their arms, they are able to come out and swing the golf club."

The solo-rider golf cart has proved to be valuable for Walter McGee, a retired U.S. Marine Corps service member who is playing golf at Nellis AFB for the first time since 2001.

"This is the first time I've ever used this golf cart. I tried it and it helps me out a lot," said McGee. "I've never hit the ball out that far with both my hands while in my chair, but I could hit it further using only my left hand while holding onto a walker. I love this cart."

Nellis AFB isn't the only Air Force participant in this program. MacDill AFB, Florida, Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, Joint Base Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, also host the program.

The current golf session at Nellis AFB will be offered every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. until June 4.

"They are already taking signups with Nancy DeBello for a fall session later in 2015," said Griffith. "This program is all funded through the PGA. As long as they continue to fund this program, we'll have it here."

Individuals looking to get involved need to have a doctor's order from their primary care physician, said Nancy DeBello, Department of Veterans Affairs certified therapeutic recreation specialist.

For those seeking more information about the PGA Hope Program, call Steve Griffith at 702-652-4497 or visit www.nellisforcesupport.com.