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.
G.I.V.E. Program Director