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.

G.I.V.E. Update, November, 2008

The G.I.V.E. Foundation, Inc now has a year of experience helping veterans learn the game of golf or helping them improve their golf games. Five classes comprised of a total of 71 veterans and their significant others, referred by the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City, have gone through the 5 session program. Each class began with learning to make that first phone call to a golf course to set-up a tee time, what to wear, the Rules of Golf and etiquette of the game, how to learn or improve their fundamentals of the golf swing, how to pitch, chip and putt, all culminating by playing golf on the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort’s championship golf course, Blue Top Ridge.

The first 2 classes in the fall of 2007 and the spring of 2008 started with a fund raiser golf tournament in August, had the first couple sessions outdoors, and then moved mostly indoors into the Event Center of the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort. Indoor hitting nets were put up weekly as the schedule for the Event Center allowed. Approximately 27 PGA professionals from the Iowa Section of the PGA came in from around the state to offer their expertise in golf instruction to the 35 plus veterans participating. They gave the vets one on one swing instruction, orientation to the Rules of Golf & Etiquette, and provided video analysis of their swings. The sessions also gave the veterans an opportunity to gather and socialize with other veterans.

The veterans have a range of abilities/disabilities including blindness, amputees w/prosthetics, paraplegics, post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries (TBI), all of which have to be dealt with individually. Adapted fundamentals in the golf swing, individual socialization, and camaraderie are the order of the day in every session.

During the whole time, the Hy-Vee grocery store chain in eastern Iowa has been the collection point for donated clubs and bags that have been redistributed to the veterans who didn’t have any clubs or to those who needed better equipment. To date 18 full sets of clubs and numerous individual clubs from putters to drivers have been fitted and handed out, at no cost to any veteran.

The foundation also sensed a need for a dedicated instructor and program administrator early on. Jim Dickerson, PGA professional and Cornell College golf coach, was hired, part time, to administer and provide continuity in the instruction of the veterans. Jim is a retired Sergeant Major, US Army who can relate to the veterans and who can use his expertise as a golf instructor to adapt the golf swing to the needs of the veterans.

Subsequent classes, three, have been conducted out of doors on the Blue Top Ridge driving range and practice green. Classes ranged in size from 4-6 to 8-10. Each class experienced the orientation, the practice with one on one instruction, the drills in putting, chipping and pitching, and the play on Blue Top Ridge. One class had a preponderance of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans while other classes have had WWII, Korean, and Vietnam veterans.

Riverside Casino & Golf Resort has just completed the construction of a Titleist Performance Center with three indoor bays looking out onto the driving range. This facility will be used during inclement weather for subsequent classes.

Jim Dickerson
G.I.V.E. Program Director

G.I.V.E. Coverage at 2008 PGA Senior Championship

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This video clip was extracted from the 2008 PGA Senior Championship which was contested on Memorial Day weekend, 2008.  The segment spotlights the newly formed G.I.V.E. Foundation.

G.I.V.E. Newsletter

Below you will find a link which will take you to the electronic version of the G.I.V.E. Newsletter.

CLICK HERE FOR NEWSLETTER

GIVE making a positive impact through a little golf

By Meredith Hines-Dochterman
 The Gazette

  IOWA CITY — Several veterans took a swing at something new last fall.
  Seventeen veterans, who had served in wars from World War II through Iraq, were the first to complete the Golf For Injured Veterans Everywhere Foundation program.
  GIVE has since concluded lessons with its second class and is in planning mode for the third.
  “It’s been very well-received,” said Troy Christensen, executive director for
the Iowa Section PGA. “It’s had a lot of national publicity and there’s talk of the PGA making this a national model.” The program, administered by the Iowa PGA, teaches veterans the basics of the game. GIVE has four phases of training for veterans to enhance their mental, social, physical and emotional well-being and improve their quality of life: introduction to golf, indoor instruction, outdoor practice at Blue Top Ridge and golf rounds at Blue Top Ridge.
  Veterans with physical disabilities aren’t discouraged for participating. GIVE is designed to reach those with physical and mental obstacles.
  Sessions are taught by Iowa PGA professionals on a volunteer basis.
  “Our goal is to make a positive impact on the lives of some of these injured veterans,” Christensen said.
  Early results indicate that it’s working.

[Read more…]

Iowa PGA Professionals provide a new lease on life for veterans as part of the inaugural GIVE Foundation

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By Bob Denney
Senior Association Writer
The PGA of America

RIVERSIDE, Iowa – The cold, fickle November weather which Iowans have come to expect has done nothing to disrupt the mood among 17 veterans gathered indoors for one of the most memorable classrooms ever assembled in Iowa golf history.

The 17 students, who had served from World War II through Iraq, were the first student/participants in the inaugural Golf For Injured Veterans Everywhere (GIVE) Foundation program. The 17 were busy completing their seventh session on Nov. 12, a day after the country took pause for Veterans Day. A week later, they would celebrate the end of their golf “basic training.”

The program was conceived by Louis King, a veteran and former executive director of The PGA of America. King believes that golf could be an important part of an injured veteran’s recovery. King was asked by Dan Kehl to bring together the Iowa PGA Section and the VA to form the partnership at the Section’s new on-course home – Blue Top Ridge at Riverside. King was named president of the GIVE Foundation.
[Read more…]

KCRG G.I.V.E. Coverage

[flv:http://media.libsyn.com/media/iowapga/tv9.flv 300 240] KCRG coverage of G.I.V.E. broadcast on 11/28/2007 by John Campbell, TV9 Sports.

Indoor Images – November 2007

G.I.V.E. Indoor Instruction November 07

Here you will find some images taken from the indoor instruction which was held at Riverside Casino and Golf Resort.

G.I.V.E. Kickoff Video

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This video displays video and still images captured at the G.I.V.E. (Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere) Kickoff which was held at Riverside Casino and Golf Resort on Thursday, October 4th, 2007. Special thanks to Barry Sharp for providing images for video!

 

Golf Lessons for Injured Vets

By John Campbell, TV9 Sports

Riverside-Cedar Rapids golf consultant Lou King had an idea, he has run with it and now things are rolling with the G-I-V-E program.

Under it, injured vets have been given free golf lessons this fall at Riverside Casino and Golf Resort. The teachers have been members of the Iowa Section PGA. They have donated their time. Riverside has donated its facilities. Hy-Vee has donated food and clubs to the vets.

It has all been coordinated by the Iowa City VA Medical Center.  17 injured vets completed the first session. A VA spokesman says they have a waiting list for future golf lessons.

Click HERE to launch video.