A unique and particularly enthusiastic “graduating class” celebrated their accomplishments at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx last week. The 120 members of the “class” are all U.S. military veterans and their “school” was PGA HOPE, a three-year-old program organized under the capable eye of Kelli Clayton, Director of Operations for the Metropolitan Section of the PGA of America.
“This is what PGA golf is all about,” said Met PGA President Brian Crowell as the ceremony began with an inspiring demonstration by disabled golfer Dennis Walters. “Giving back and helping other people is what we do.”
Dozens of Met PGA pros donate their time, expertise, and encouragement to the vets in a series of clinics that not only introduces them to the game of golf but gives them a tremendous dose of positive reinforcement and self-worth. Ultimately, the goal is to show them they can have a full life despite the physical and mental afflictions suffered during their service to our country. The vets come from VA hospitals in the Bronx, Long Island, and Montrose in Westchester.
Some 30 pros were on hand to lead teams of vets in a nine-hole scramble tournament at the course. Knollwood head pro Bob Miller said, “I just love this. It’s one of the best things I experience. These guys and gals are fantastic people.”
Met PGA Executive Director Jeff Vorheis said Miller’s feelings are felt by all the pros who participate. “They get a lot out of it,” he said. “The vets thank the pros but the pros are even more grateful for a chance to make a difference.”
In addition to the Dennis Walters demonstration and golf outing, the vets enjoyed a celebratory dinner. Each graduate also received a set of new Callaway golf clubs. Those clubs will come in handy as they extend their golf “careers” beyond the practice tee. The Met PGA makes that possible, too, through a new golf league for graduates of the program. While the current graduates were playing their tournament, over 50 vet alums experienced a clinic with Michael Breed from the Golf Channel on the range and short game area.