Various divisions of the PGA of America (PGA REACH, PGA Sections and our PGA Professionals) work together with local Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospitals and military installations to implement this program. Veterans that are referred to the PGA HOPE program attend a one-day introductory golf experience, after which they can participate in a six- to eight-week program, taught by PGA Professionals trained to work with Veterans with physical and emotional disabilities. After completion of the program, they receive a graduation card, offering them a range of golf-related benefits in their region. The program is open to all military Veterans, with an emphasis on serving those with physical and emotional disabilities. VA staff that work with HOPE Veterans are invited and encouraged to participate, as their involvement is beneficial to the success of the program.
Now, he says, “In my focus group in the VA, all I talk about is golf and how other Veterans need to be involved in PGA HOPE.” He plays any chance he gets (2-3 times a week) at Elmwood Country Club in New York. For Rafael, the best part of the program is the continued support he’s received since graduating. He continues to participate in the game by playing in local tournaments for Veteran golfers.
He is inspired by seeing how the program can change Veterans’ lives over the course of only a few weeks. The program has seen tremendous growth since its inception: the first session had about 16 Veterans participate, with five PGA Professionals on location. In 2017, more than 150 Veterans graduated from the program in three locations. He also estimates that about 50 program graduates participate in the PGA HOPE League at his club.
For more information on PGA HOPE, please visit pgareach.org/services/military.