A Story of HOPE

A Story of HOPE

Walking up to his first South Florida PGA Foundation HOPE golf lesson, Navy veteran Pat Ward informs the instructors, “Alright, I’m ready for my green jacket.” Always excited to learn, infectious smile and a friend to all describe the true character of Ward.  Never mind the fact he was walking on a prosthetic leg that extended above the knee. Never mind it was a 20-year battle, including fifty plus surgeries, trying to keep his leg. Never mind he had never played golf before. Ward was ready to drive, chip and putt around any obstacle that ever kept him from the lifetime game before.
 
Ward is one the of 225 veterans who have participated in the PGA HOPE program throughout south Florida. Beginning in 2015, this initiative was a national drive of the PGA to provide veterans the opportunity to learn a lifetime sport taught by local PGA Professionals. Over the course of six weeks veterans learn golf skills through interactive competitions, as a tool for assimilation and therapeutic rehabilitation. In 2017, South Florida PGA Foundation provided eleven programs serving veterans like Pat who never thought they would have an opportunity such as this.
 
“I knew it was for me,” Ward said about the addictive sport of golf, “Golf and I were destined to be together.” Before PGA HOPE Ward imagined golf to require brute strength and was just a job for golf instructors. He now understands golf to be a skilled sport requiring balance, which as an amputee added difficulty while learning a proper stance, weight transfer and body rotation. Ward credits his teachers, PGA Professionals: Pam Elders, Nick Pincket, Mark VanDyck, Michael O’Brien and Ken Tate, those who view HOPE as more than a job and are: “Insightful, empathetic, brilliant, knowledgeable and patient.” Ward is thankful for the PGA as a veteran and getting to see the good HOPE has done for him and a lot of other lonely people out there. “I could have been another lost soul without this program.”
 
When asked if he had experienced any sense of accomplishment, Ward replied “Absolutely- 1000%!” Even though his success didn’t begin the first week of the program, as the lesons progressed Pat was thrilled with his continued success. Serving as a spokesperson for the VA and other various organizations focused on rehabilitating veterans through activity and sport, Pat has a great platform for encouraging other veterans to participate in HOPE. Throughout his personal social media and the outlets of organizations he represents, you can hear Ward constantly encouraging others like him to “get up off of the couch and get out of the house!” More specifically concerning golf, Ward encourages those facing disabilities and illnesses to try golf. “It’s an outstanding opportunity to gain comradery with a beautiful setting,” Ward said while looking out on the greens of Plantation Preserve Golf Club. It was here Pat learned that while the green jacket might be out of reach, the opportunity of golf is no longer unobtainable. Taking the tools given to him by PGA Professionals Elders and Pincket, Ward plans to improve upon his new golf skills. “I’m not limiting myself and no one should limit themselves. Life goes fast.” 
 
Ward’s personal motto, “If I can do it you can do it,” perfectly summarizes the mentality of graduating veterans. PGA HOPE gives veterans the opportunity to develop skills beyond the course. Empowering heroes to inspire fellow veterans to take a leap of faith while learning something new. Pat graduated from his six-week program before Thanksgiving and plans on returning in the spring to assist the new class of participants. Until then, you can find Pat on the course in his green polo shirt, developing his new love for the game of golf with no obstacles in sight.