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.

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…]

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.

Injured veterans complete first golf class

By The Press-Citizen Newsroom on behalf of Riverside Casino & Golf Resort

November 19 was a special day for participants in the Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere (G.I.V.E) program. Seventeen disabled veterans completed their basic training . . . in golf.

The VA Medical Center in Iowa City, the Iowa PGA Section and Riverside Casino & Golf Resort established G.I.V.E. to allow veterans with disabilities being seen at the Iowa City VA Medical Center the opportunity to learn and play the game of golf.

The golf program has four phases of training for veterans to enhance their mental, social, physical, and emotional well-being and improve their quality of life. Instruction is provided by golf professionals from across the state who are members of the Iowa Section PGA at the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort where they have access to the Blue Top Ridge at Riverside golf course.

This first class included veterans from WWII, Vietnam War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the final session the graduates were presented with complete sets of golf clubs donated by Iowans at Iowa City, Coralville, and Cedar Rapids Hy-Vee stores and refurbished and fit to the individual player by PGA professionals. Hy-Vee also presented the graduates with a free Thanksgiving turkey.

Iowa VA Medical Center Director Barry Sharp praised the program calling it a “truly unique partnership” that will benefit our veterans “We could not be more pleased to have the Iowa Veterans for Golf Program start in Iowa City. It shows a commitment from Iowa businesses and organizations to our veterans. It will bring great enjoyment to our veterans, their families, VA staff, PGA staff and Blue Top Ridge at Riverside staff.”

Riverside Casino & Golf Resort CEO, Dan Kehl, said, “We are proud to have been a part of this program and are anxious to have the graduates play the course next spring and summer. Golf might be one small way we can repay the debt all of us owe these great Americans.”