Celebrating Veterans Day with PGA HOPE

Celebrating Veterans Day with PGA HOPE

“Fun, camaderie, overwhelming, and exciting” are all words used by teachers and participants alike to describe their time in the South Florida PGA Foundation HOPE program. Helping Our Patriots Everywhere is a six-week program for veterans to be taught by local PGA Professionals as a means of therapeutic rehabilitation. Getting them out of their home and on to the golf course to learn a lifetime sport serves as an excellent opportunity for patriots to assimilate back into their community. With Veteran’s Day just around the corner, it’s an exciting time for the PGA to deem November 11, 2017 as their inaugural- Day of HOPE. Celebrating patriots and raising awareness and support for the PGA HOPE program as it continues to grow serves as the purpose for the day. And in the South Florida PGA Section there is reason to celebrate our veterans and their growing love for the game of golf.

Over the last six weeks a group of ten veterans at The First Tee of Miami have been learning various aspects of the lifetime sport. Some obvious skills acquired include putting, chipping and driving the ball. However, many veterans were not expecting to learn a new way of life. Army veteran Roger Algeciaras, who now requires assistance for walking and standing due to his multiple sclerosis, described himself to be playing golf all the time while living on different military bases. “Now that I have M.S., it’s more difficult for me than before, but I’m dealing with it.” Algeciaras explained from his perch on a ParaGolfer. This all-terrain wheelchair raises its user to a standing position allowing a golf swing without using the lower half of their body. Allowed on all course surfaces, and one of two ParaGolfers The First Tee of Miami has available for disabled golfers, has allowed Algeciaras the opportunity to play golf again. He described PGA HOPE as “exciting and fun,” because he’s able to do things he used to again. “Because before I was in a hospital all day, and now I’m here I’m having fun with everybody I’m seeing veterans, I’m doing everything I used to do.”

In addition to introducing veterans to the game, PGA HOPE’s purpose includes inspiring a desire to continue playing long after their final session. A great example of this is veteran Julian Newbauer, who participated in the spring of 2016. Newbauer now attends HOPE sessions as a “buddy” instead of a student, lending his previous knowledge and encouragement to current players. During the last session of the HOPE program, players are taken out on to the golf course and piece together all that they have learned in previous lessons. To fulfill the purpose of inspiring veterans to consider golf as a lifetime sport, Newbauer assists teaching professional Mike Simmons in recruiting recent graduates to continue playing once a week at the course they learned the game. “Eventually we hope to have enough people so that we can have our own little tournaments together.” Newbauer laughed and added, “Friendly tournaments. Just to have fun playing together. Maybe even play some other PGA HOPE schools.”

This past Wednesday, The First Tee of Miami chapter of HOPE graduated nine veterans from their fall season. This adding on to the 225 veterans that have participated in one of the eleven South Florida PGA Foundation HOPE programs that took place this year. Two more programs are set to graduate next week, in Broward County and West Palm Beach, and two more programs are just beginning on the west coast in Ft. Myers and Naples. One of the many instructors of the program, PGA Professional Sean Kicker described the program as “priceless.” Kicker elaborated, “To see the reaction of [participating veterans], and how much they appreciate the things we’re trying to do here with the PGA HOPE project, it’s just priceless.”
To learn more about PGA HOPE, view stories of past participants, or where to sign up your beloved veteran for this life-changing program; please check out https://www.sfpgagolf.com/programs/.

The addresses for the two graduating South Florida PGA Foundation HOPE programs:
Broward County, Wednesday at 12 PM:
Plantation Preserve Golf Club
7050 W Broward Blvd
Plantation, FL 33317-2209
Palm Beach County, Thursday at 2:30 PM:
Eastpointe Country Club
13535 Eastpointe Blvd
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418-1499