By Meredith Hines-Dochterman
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.
“Some of our general physicians and psychiatrist have said they don’t know what we’re doing with the program but to keep it up,” said Kirt Sickels, spokesman for the Iowa City VA Medical Center. “It’s really lifechanging for some of these vets.” GIVE is the brainchild of Louis King, former executive director of the PGA of America. A veteran himself, and Riverside Casino & Golf Resort’s golf consultant, King was asked by Riverside Casino & Golf Resort CEO Dan Kehl to bring the Iowa PGA Section and the VA together to form the partnership at the Iowa Section’s new on-course home — Blue Top Ridge at Riverside.
“The opportunity to give back to our men and women in the armed forces is what this program is all about,” Kehl said in a news release. “It is the least any one of us could do to show our appreciation of and respect for the men and women who serve our country.” GIVE launched with kickoff event in October and started lessons shortly after. Christensen estimates the program has served about 75 veterans to date. Veterans are referred to the program, with nearly 300 names on a waiting list.
“It will take time and more volunteers, but we will keep this a quality program and we will get to every veteran on the list,” Christensen said.
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