Throughout the year, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and focus on yourself rather than others. But one of the best parts of the holiday season is the opportunity to give rather than receive. Methodist University’s PGA Golf Management (PGM) program has been fortunate enough to display that caring spirit by sharing the game of golf with veterans throughout North Carolina.
Throughout the year, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and focus on yourself rather than others. But one of the best parts of the holiday season is the opportunity to give rather than receive.
Methodist University’s PGA Golf Management (PGM) program has been fortunate enough to display that caring spirit by sharing the game of golf with veterans throughout North Carolina.
The University’s PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) initiative allows military veterans to learn the game of golf at Downback, Methodist University’s on-campus, 18-hole golf course for students, at no cost to the veterans.
Each semester, Methodist University works directly with the Fort Bragg Service Recovery Unit to find 12-18 military veterans interested in participating in the program. Once they are selected, the veterans simply show up each week during an eight-week stretch to receive quality one-on-one instruction from the PGM’s premier faculty and staff.
“For me, both of my grandfathers fought in World War II and my uncle was in the Air Force so I have a history of military in the family,” said Brock White, an associate director of MU’s PGM program. “Our PGA HOPE program is about giving back to those that gave up so much for us. We simply want to give them something to enjoy.”
Marcus McNear, a U.S. Army veteran of 22 years, graduated from MU’s PGA HOPE program in 2021, but he enjoyed it so much that he wanted to come back for another stint in the spring of 2022.
“We get to come out here for two hours, hang out, talk, play golf, and share war stories with one another,” said McNear. “It’s great to be able to just be around other veterans, honestly. We’re all different ages and have served in different areas, but we will always have that bond of serving our country.”
While MU’s program is open to all veterans, it specifically embraces veterans with cognitive or physical limitation, including paralysis. The University is able to provide adaptive golf carts that allow the veterans to drive around the golf course with their golf clubs. When ready, the adaptive golf cart can also support the veterans in a standing position for their swing.
One of the veterans who took advantage of the adaptive golf cart is Ronald Richardson, a U.S. Army veteran of 23 years who currently uses a wheelchair.
“Even though I can’t use my legs, the adaptive golf cart allows me to stand up so I can use my torso and shoulders,” Richardson said. “It’s helping me learn about the different types of techniques to improve my play.”
Richardson isn’t shy about his ultimate goal after taking part in PGA HOPE.
“My brother golfs and this gives me a chance to get better and beat him,” he said. “My brother doesn’t think I’m going to beat him, so I’m going to tune my skills and show him what I’m capable of.”
In the final week of the program, MU holds a graduation for the veterans. Last spring, the University invited the graduates and their families to Drive Shack in Raleigh, providing the veterans’ families a chance to interact with one another while watching their heroes’ golf improvements for the first time.
The graduates walk away with a certificate of achievement, plaque, a PGA HOPE card giving them golf discounts around the state, and sometimes, even a bag of clubs so they can continue working on their craft.
“The pure joy in their eyes is incredible,” White said. “Even if they shoot a 120 on the course, that’s still 120 moments they didn’t have to think about what they went through in the past. We are truly honored to spend time with these veterans.”
Methodist University looks forward to continuing the program each spring and fall.
To learn more about Methodist University’s PGM program, visit here.