Warrior Blog: Golf as Therapy

Team 43 member B.J. Ganem, who played in this week's Warrior Open, writes a guest blog about the importance of golf as therapy in his recovery and his experience at his first Warrior Open in 2015.

Team 43 member B.J. Ganem writes on his experience at his first Warrior Open and how he has used golf as therapy to help recover. 

When I was in grade school and high school growing up in Savannah, GA, I viewed golf as a game for old folks or rich kids. I did not understand how a game where participants chasing little balls across perfectly manicured lawns could be seen as a challenging sport.  I played full contact sports.   These were sports where you not only had to be at your best, you had to know your opponent’s weaknesses, exploit them, and most of all be tough when they tried to exploit yours. So after my leg was amputated due to injuries sustained from an I.E.D. attack and someone mentioned I take up golf as a challenge during rehab, I scoffed with contempt. Boy was I wrong.

In fact, it was one of the best “therapies” I was exposed to after my injury and subsequent ending of my career as a warfighter.  Golf is a powerful therapy for guys like me.  It offers me the opportunity to refine my skills.  I thrive in competition, but I have to do so in an environment that rewards balance, precision, control, and etiquette. If you allow yourself to get “amped” up like athletes do before a football or basketball game, there would be no chance of success on the golf course. In those sports an athlete can ride emotion to play one of their best games.

In combat, many of our actions are dominated by muscle memory of our training and by our severe love of our fellow men and women in uniform. But golf does not reward emotion, in fact if a golfer does not maintain balance with their emotions their game can go awry very quickly. For this reason, especially, I credit so much of my success in transition to my exposure to the sport of golf.

The 2015 Bush Warrior Open was my first experience with a serious golf tournament. Not only was our 43rd President and his wife Mrs. Bush in attendance, but the galleries were full and we had PGA referees manning the event. Golf is a challenging game on its own, but add in people watching and remove the “foot” wedge and it becomes a whole different monster. This one experience opened my eyes to what more I had to learn from the game of golf, and in life for that matter.

President Bush took such a genuine interest in our recovery.  He not only hosted the Warrior Open, but participated and engaged each of us over the course of the three days.  It was an experience that one couldn’t help but come away with a renewed vigor and sense of value in life.

Every person in attendance, whether they were a CEO or just a patriotic citizen, began to see us differently. We weren’t just a sad or inspirational story.  Thanks to the leadership of President Bush and his team, people are beginning to understand the wounds of war (visible and invisible) and the stigma of being a wounded warrior, especially when it comes to asking for help, can end.