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This guest blog was written by Salute Military Golf Association.
As the sun rises over Congressional Country Club during the 2012 AT&T National Tournament’s Pro Am, a mixture of metal and muscle strides towards the first tee. Each scar on this wounded warrior tells a story about what he has overcome on the path to this moment. A 27-year-old former standout soccer player, unable to compete on the pitch, has turned to golf for competition, friendship and healing. Chris Bowers is one of three wounded warriors who have been invited to play in the Pro Am with Ryan Palmer. The Salute Military Golf Association (SMGA) members’ team managed a respectable score of -7. On this day these young men proved that no goal is unreachable and with the right motivation anything is possible. Each wounded warrior carries their own scars, a road map of perseverance and determination that tells the story of how they reached this point in their recovery, in many cases after years. These veterans are very familiar with the values which are similar in golf: selflessness, respect, integrity and patience. Learning the game of golf takes baby steps, but these warriors have learned to take each day as it comes. SMGA provides another opportunity for these wounded warriors to apply many of the skills they honed in service: mentorship, teamwork, leadership, integrity and honor. You’ll never see an SMGA golfer use a kick wedge. We pride ourselves in teaching these golfers the traditional way of the game SMGA was founded after Jim Estes, Director of Instruction at Olney Golf Park in Olney, MD, saw first-hand the positive effects the game of golf could have on combat-wounded soldiers. Several trips from Walter Reed Army Medical Center to Olney Golf Park eventually evolved into a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation aimed at supporting injured veterans:
- Equipped more than 450 wounded warriors with properly fitted golf clubs;
- Offered free lessons to nearly 1,000 combat-wounded veterans;
- Enabled the rehabilitative benefits of golf to improve the mental and physical condition of every veteran who has participated in a SMGA golf program;
- Provided wounded warriors with individualized player development programs--offering golf clinics, personal lessons, specialized equipment, and golf experiences.
SMGA differentiates itself as an organization serving wounded warriors through a holistic look at rehabilitation. The organization has observed and experienced that both the intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of golf can significantly improve the mental and physical condition of wounded warriors as they recover from visible and invisible injuries, and the reintegrate into civilian life for those leaving the military. Golf for life is one of the mottos in the SMGA family. Our goal is to use golf to connect beyond their initial rehabilitation here in Washington, DC. Our national expansion includes rolling out programs throughout the United States via PGA of America Teaching professionals, golf courses and clubs and local support. This post is part of a series to help highlight the good work of military support organizations and fulfill the mission of the Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative to honor the sacrifices and service our U.S. servicemen and women and their families make for our freedom. The Institute helps military support organizations achieve their missions more effectively by raising awareness and spotlighting best practices.
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