Having dabbled in golf growing up, Army Veteran Charlie Bennett decided he would check out the PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) clinic at Atkinson Resort & Country Club. Afterall, there was nothing to lose, the PGA HOPE program offers free golf clinics to military Veterans like Charlie. Like so many others who find a club in their hands, Charlie was quickly hooked on the game.
“I had played golf when I was younger and really got away from the game of golf when I was in the service,” he said. “After I retired I started to get back into it, and through some of the programs like this, I started getting a little more instruction and started getting more interested in it. Now it’s all I want to do.”
Before long, he was not only looking forward to his next PGA HOPE clinic, but making golf plans with fellow Veterans outside of the program. It’s not just the golf that keeps Charlie coming back. The camaraderie and relationships with other Veterans are equally as meaningful.
“Golf is a great venue for Veterans to reconnect with other Veterans,” he said. “A lot of times when we get out of the service we start losing that connection with other Veterans. Golf is just a great venue for that. Programs like PGA HOPE give us access to reconnect with Veterans to get out and do these things and I really enjoy it.”
The Atkinson program is just one of a growing number of PGA HOPE programs within the New England PGA Section. Since 2019, seven different facilities have hosted full 6-8 week PGA HOPE programs, in addition to multiple one-day PGA HOPE clinics. The goal is to introduce golf to Veterans to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. At least for Charlie, that’s exactly what’s happening.
“We can get that escape from whatever’s going on, get away from all that, get to a golf course and reconnect with Veterans,” Charlie added. “Each guy can disappear on their own, they might be thinking about their golf shot, they might be thinking about life, whatever. Then we meet up on the green and get connected.”
PGA HOPE is funded by PGA REACH to ensure the programming is free for Veterans. PGA Professionals who facilitate PGA HOPE programs complete PGA HOPE training to ensure they’re equipped to teach golf to Veterans who may be battling physical or mental disabilities. PGA HOPE training is offered by the New England PGA each spring.
PGA Professionals interested in attending the training and hosting a PGA HOPE program should contact NEPGA Foundation Director Michael Packard, PGA at firstname.lastname@example.org. Veterans interested in finding a local PGA HOPE program should visit our website. Programs will begin again in the Spring of 2021.