When Army Veteran Dave Thomas started PGA HOPE in 2016 – the first program offered in Palm Beach County – he underestimated the greater impact it would have.
This fall, his brother, Air Force Veteran Philip Thomas, graduated from PGA HOPE at Southwinds Golf Course and left a lasting impact on the Thomas brothers.
“I pressured him to do something with me to get out of the house and learning the game of golf is a great way to decompress,” said Dave who brought Philip to PGA HOPE after experiencing its impact.
PGA HOPE (Helping Our Veterans Everywhere) introduces golf to veterans with disabilities to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. Golf sessions are offered at no costs to veterans and are taught by PGA Professionals.
Dave, the elder of the two, served for 23 years as part of the United States Army while Philip was part of the United States Air Force before becoming a police officer in south Florida.
“Since going through the HOPE program, it has allowed me to get out and socialize with other veterans and lean on some of the other veterans through the difficult times we’ve had,” explained Dave.
While transitioning out of life in the military can be hard enough, Dave and Philip have been faced with some of life’s toughest battles personally. The Thomas brothers’ mother and father have been fighting different forms of cancer.
“The game of golf has been a great outlet,” said Philip who was reluctant to first get involved. “It took a while because I prefer to bowl but this has become a way to spend time with my brother and keep him out of depression.”
Not easily convinced to join the program, Philip proposed a wager. Philip would learn his brother’s preferred sport, and in one year if he beats Dave at golf, then Dave would have to take on Philip’s favorite sport bowling. After going through PGA HOPE Philip understood why his brother had been pressuring him.
“You tend to gravitate to the different people you meet in this program because we have that common bond,” explained Phillip. “I would have never joined had Dave not encouraged me to do it. The game of golf builds relationships so whether you are a veteran or not, this is a great game to learn.”
Those relationships are what have propelled Dave and Philip to cope with their post-war and personal struggles in a positive manner.
“The people you meet in HOPE are constantly there for each other whether it is a phone call to check-in or an invite to come out and play golf to get my mind off things, it has been a wonderful group to be a part of,” said Dave.
When Dave first began with PGA HOPE in 2016, the South Florida PGA offered just two programs, graduating 10 participants. This year, the SFPGA has administered programs all over south Florida and has graduated 150 participants, including Phillip.
“This program is awesome,” said Phillip.” I am so fortunate that the PGA does this for us.”