Archives for 2009

GIVE – Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere More than a charitable brand, it is Iowa’s Success Model for the Country

By Bob Denney

Since the end of World War I, the “war to end all wars,” Americans have evolved in the manner by which they pay tribute to those men and women who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Ninety years ago today, when “Armistice Day” was first set aside as a solemn day of remembrance, speeches and parades and ceremonies marked the time.

There is a group of Eastern Iowans who have made Veterans Day their daily routine, their passion. They formed a team chemistry that blends Iowa PGA Professionals, a generous host site in the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort and the Iowa VA Medical Center of Iowa City.

The trio has become a winning partnership, a model for the country in how to use the game of golf to restore mental health and add more than a ray of happiness to troubled veterans and their families.

Since the fall of 2007, Iowa PGA Professionals have worked with 190 veterans who had served from World War II through the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere (GIVE) program has performed and has branded itself by providing hope, enjoyment in a game and for many a new chapter in life.

“The GIVE program emulates what good can come from partnerships between government, communities, and businesses in serving our veterans,” says Iowa VA Medical Center Director Barry Sharp. “The GIVE program changes lives, bringing families together in a social setting, and teaches them a sport that all members of the family can enjoy. The GIVE program model will work in any community in the United States if you have the right partnerships.

“While the acronym GIVE stands for Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere, it is the strength of the partnership that is doing the giving, and as everyone who has supported this program has discovered – when you give you get far more in return. The GIVE program is an excellent way for communities to give back to our veterans for the sacrifices they and their families have made for the United States of America.”

The GIVE model involves participating veterans receiving the best in PGA golf instruction, donated golf equipment and free access to the practice facility and the nearby Blue Top Ridge at Riverside championship layout.

And, there is not one penny being charged to the Iowa taxpayer.

The GIVE program was the idea of Lou King of Cedar Rapids, a former PGA executive director and former senior vice president for Amana Refrigeration. The concept was embraced by Riverside Casino & Golf Resort’s brother combination of CEO Dan Kehl and Executive Director of Golf, Bobby Kehl, who have contributed to make GIVE grow.

“The veterans, many of them joined by family members, come here, go through the classes and leave as your friend,” says Bobby Kehl. “I can’t think of a better feeling inside for me than that.”

Dan Kehl said that he has added respect for the GIVE participants.

“I can’t walk away without feeling humbled by those who have done so much for our country,” says Kehl. “If it wasn’t for the veterans carrying the water for us, I may have been serving over there.”

The Iowa VA Medical Center teamed by screening applicants for the program, which has yielded dividends and a new set of success stories in the heartland.

“This program eased the burden for me of returning home,” says Julie Gorman of Cedar Rapids, a retired Sgt. E-7 after 22 years in the Army, who had returned from Iraq with a severe foot injury requiring two surgeries. She also was suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Today, Gorman, a longtime employee at Crescent Electric in Cedar Rapids, has been one of GIVE’s biggest advocates.

“At first, I did not want to be with any other veterans,” she says. “Now, I have found it helps me to be there to help others. It keeps me coming back. I think that the commitment those PGA Professionals and the resort has made is just wonderful.

Gorman says her personal recovery progress, aided by the VA Medical Center and GIVE, was underscored in her ability to say farewell to friends heading to service recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“A couple years ago, I would not have been able to do that,” says Gorman. “Now I feel differently about it. I have stood up to my demons and put it behind me.”

The success stories include Joe Corso of West Liberty, who served three tours of duty in Vietnam and did not leave his home for some two years. He also has contracted leukemia, yet has found himself.

“This program got me closer to my wife,” says Corso. “The pros I’ve met are not going through the motions. They look you in the eye; they care about you. I’ve built more trust. I feel born again.”

Vietnam veteran Larry Phillips of Anita, Iowa, 66, lives some 65 miles west of Des Moines, where there isn’t a GIVE program. So, he and his wife, Mary Lou, also a veteran, have driven three hours one way to Riverside three separate occasions to participate in the GIVE curriculum.

“We were met with open arms and I can’t tell you how that makes me feel,” says Phillips, who became a paraplegic in 1968, a year after his discharge from the Army.

“They found me a solo rider golf cart, where I could hit the ball from a side seat. I was a couple over par for the four holes I played. The PGA Professionals wanted to be there with us. They weren’t looking at their wristwatches. You know you face a three-hour trip, but there is something there that really leaves you feeling that you didn’t begrudge the long drive.”

Dr. Michael J. Hall, a neuropyschologist with the Iowa VA Medical Center, has been a keen observer of the GIVE success stories through his own patients.

“One of my concerns is that people say that this is just golf,” says Dr. Hall. “It is not just golf, it is more than golf. Golf is a venue again to create a positive environment, positive experiences. We have something good here, but essentially what we need to do is replicate what works and to not do what doesn’t work. This is something that works.”

By late today, the speeches, ceremonies, tributes and some TV documentaries honoring those who have fought for peace will conclude.

Yet there are those in Eastern Iowa whose counsel, friendship and a spirit of hope burns well past the 11th hour on the 11th day of November.

GIVE.

It is more than a charitable brand; it is what is right.

Bob Denney, formerly of Cedar Rapids, is the Senior Association Writer for The PGA of America

GIVE Scramble at Blue Top Ridge on October 11th

Contact:  Troy Christensen
September 2, 2009
Iowa PGA Section
319-648-0026
tchristensen@pgahq.com

NATIONALLY-RECOGNIZED GOLF FOR INJURED VETERANS EVERYWHERE
PROGRAM TO HOST FIRST GIVE SCRAMBLE AT BLUE TOP RIDGE, OCT. 11

Golf for Injured Veterans EverywhereRIVERSIDE, Iowa – The GIVE Foundation, which achieved national recognition for its teamwork in bringing together injured veterans, their families and PGA Professionals, will host the first GIVE Scramble at Blue Top Ridge, Sunday, Oct. 11.

The tournament, presented by The Riverside Casino & Golf Resort, will have honorary chairpersons in Champions Tour standout Lonnie Nielsen and his wife, Mary Jo, each natives of Belle Plaine, Iowa.

Earlier this season, Nielsen became the first tour professional to serve as a lead contributor to the GIVE (Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere) Foundation. Nielsen, 55, a 1976 graduate of the University of Iowa, heads the 2009 “Birdies for Heroes Challenge,” in which he donates $50 for each birdie and $500 for each eagle that he records to the GIVE Foundation. Nielsen’s initiative also received support for the GIVE Foundation from past major champions Larry Nelson and Jerry Pate.

The GIVE Scramble at Blue Top Ridge will feature 28 four-player teams composed of an Iowa PGA Section professional or apprentice along with three veterans who are being treated at the Iowa VA Medical Center in Iowa City, and whom have participated in GIVE program classes. The 18-hole, best-shot event is believed to the first team event of its kind in the country involving wounded veterans.

“What our veterans have given in sacrifice to ensure the freedoms of this country is immeasurable,” said Iowa PGA Section President Steve Hutton. “The GIVE program has been a wonderful sharing experience for our PGA Professionals with both veterans and their families. We are proud to be joining in this first GIVE Scramble at Blue Top Ridge and so pleased to have the support of Tour professional Lonnie Nielsen and his wife, who have set the bar high for supporting veterans everywhere.”

The GIVE Foundation achieved national recognition by The PGA of America and the Veterans Administration for its unique curriculum that blends PGA Professional-led golf instruction and accompanying life lesson support to enhance the mental, social, physical and emotional well-being of veterans.

Nielsen is a member of a GIVE Foundation Advisory Board that includes former Masters Champion Bob Goalby, Champions Tour star Jay Haas; along with former Iowa Governor Robert Ray, former University of Iowa football coach Hayden Fry, former Iowa basketball coach Tom Davis, Iowa wrestling legend Dan Gable; and former Iowa State University basketball coach Johnny Orr.

“It has been a great experience for both me and Mary Jo to support the men and women of our military – patriots who have sacrificed so much for our country,” said Nielsen, a member of the Champions Tour since 2003 and who competed from 1978-83 on the PGA TOUR. “We are excited about the future of the GIVE program and we believe the first GIVE Scramble will be tremendous experience for all participants.

“The veterans competing in this event represent thousands around the country who have found value in the game of golf beyond its recreational and physical attributes. The game has actually played a role in rehabilitating the lives of those same veterans and in many cases restored families.”

The GIVE program is a partnership between the Iowa PGA Professional, the Iowa VA Medical Center and the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort.

Since its founding in 2007, the GIVE program has received more than 400 applications for new students to receive PGA instruction. Louis King of Cedar Rapids, president of the GIVE Foundation, said that the GIVE Scramble at Blue Top Ridge is an effort to provide new golf experiences for veterans.

“We are extremely honored and proud that Lonnie and Mary Jo Nielsen have given their support to this new event, recognizing that it is more than a single veteran who gains from the GIVE experience,” said King. “Lonnie unselfishly led the initiative on Tour to help our veterans and we believe this event – hosted by a great partner in Blue Top Ridge at Riverside and featuring Iowa PGA Professionals – may be the catalyst for future support and new playing opportunities.”

For more information about the GIVE Foundation and the GIVE Scramble at Blue Top Ridge, contact the Iowa PGA Section headquarters 319-648-0026, or e-mail tchristensen@pgahq.com.

The GIVE Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-for-profit organization, with all donations tax-deductible.

Champions Tour Professional, Iowa Native Lonnie Nielsen To Lead Birdies For Heroes Challenge In Support Of The GIVE Foundation

Lonnie NielsenRIVERSIDE, Iowa – Lonnie Nielsen, whose golf career is marked with success from the club professional ranks to the highest echelon in the game, has become the first tour professional to serve as a lead contributor to the GIVE (Golf For Injured Veterans Everywhere) Foundation.

Nielsen, 55, a native of Belle Plaine, Iowa, and a 1976 graduate of the University of Iowa, will spend the 2009 Champions Tour season heading a “Birdies for Heroes Challenge,” where he will donate $50 for each birdie and $500 for each eagle that he records to the GIVE Foundation.

In addition, Nielsen will donate $2,500 in the event of his posting a hole-in-one this season. Nielsen has made 16 aces in his professional career.

Begun in 2007, the GIVE Foundation has achieved national recognition by The PGA of America and the Veterans Administration for its blend of PGA Professional-led golf curriculum and accompanying life lesson support to enhance the mental, social, physical and emotional well-being of veterans.

Nielsen issued a call to his fellow Champions Tour professionals, Iowa PGA Section professionals competing in 2009 local and area events, and to PGA TOUR and Nationwide Tour members to join in the season fundraising campaign. The GIVE Foundation Advisory Board currently includes former Masters Champion Bob Goalby and Champions Tour standout Jay Haas.

“My heroes are, and have always been, the men and women of our military,” said Nielsen, who competed from 1978-83 on the PGA TOUR, then spent nearly two decades where he captured 32 Western New York PGA Section victories while a PGA club professional in East Aurora, N.Y. “I believe in the goal of the GIVE Foundation, which has accomplished in a short period of time some remarkable success stories among veterans and their families.

“It’s just great to know that the game of golf has played a key role in the healing process. I want to play well this season to help our veterans. I reach out to all Iowa PGA Section Professionals, my fellow competitors on Tour to see who can lead the Birdies for Heroes Challenge. We are in this to support those individuals who have given back so much for our country.”

Nielsen begins the 2009 Champions Tour season after finishing 11th among the top 30 money-winners in the 2008 season, earning more than $1.2 million with nine top-10 finishes. Nielsen was the winner of the Champions Tour’s 2007 Commerce Bank Championship.

The GIVE program is a partnership between the Iowa PGA Professional, the Iowa VA Medical Center and Riverside Casino & Golf Resort. The program received more than 300 applications in 2008 for new students to receive PGA instruction. Louis King of Cedar Rapids, president of the GIVE Foundation, said that the program has been in dire need of funds for equipment and transportation expenses to allow instructors and veterans to meet at the host site for series of classes throughout the year.

“We are extremely honored and proud to have Lonnie Nielsen, one of the great golf professionals Iowa has produced, to lead the Birdie for Heroes Challenge,” said King. “Lonnie represents the best of his profession and the state of Iowa, where people give back and help others.

“The GIVE Foundation has really just touched the surface of aiding our courageous veterans. We are blessed to have a tremendous partnership with the Iowa PGA Section, the Iowa VA Medical Center and our host, Riverside Casino & Golf Resort. With the support of professionals like Lonnie Nielsen, we can look forward to a brighter year for many veterans and their families, who have discovered that golf is a lifesaver and a new-found passion.”

For more information about the GIVE Foundation and the Birdies for Heroes Challenge, contact the Iowa PGA Section headquarters 1-888-213-8265 or e-mail iowa@pgahq.com

The GIVE Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-for-profit organization, with all donations tax-deductible.