This Spring we opened up our facility to the first PGA Hope (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) programming offered in Northwest Arkansas. This incredible outreach program introduces golf to Veterans and Active Duty Military to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being.
We are proud to be affiliated with this incredible program, and it has been our honor to have Veterans of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life coming out to see us at First Tee – NWA. As we have gotten to know the participants, we have one gentleman that drives two hours, one way, just to join this class. Several others had not heard of the program before, but upon looking into it, most facilities fill up so quickly they have waitlists. We hope this opportunity is something that will continue to grow in our area.
We had the chance to chat with a couple of the Veterans and what this program has meant to them.
Jim McDonner spent 26 years Active Duty with the Navy followed by 14 years of Civil Service. After beginning retirement he was looking into taking up golf and starting lessons. It had been ten years or more since he had swung a club and fortunate timing for him about the time he started to look for lessons he noticed the PGA Hope program coming to NWA in the VA Newsletter. He was able to get signed up and has enjoyed the weekly sessions immensely. His favorite part has been chatting with the PGA Professionals – he says they have been very easy to talk to, very helpful and informative, and he has really enjoyed learning the technique behind his swing. One of the coaches took a video of his swing and analyzed it, and Jim appreciated being able to take the critiques and work to improve based on the feedback he was given.
Kathleen Finley is another Veteran attending the program, and the only female in this cohort. This is not a new position for her – she was in the Air Force from 1979-1989 and was the 1st Female Diesel Mechanic in Little Rock. When she signed up for the program her golfing experience only included miniature golf, which she claimed she wasn’t all that great at. Lots of missed putts and overhit balls that had to be chased. She learned about PGA Hope coming to NWA through an article and thought it would be fun to give it a try. Her favorite part about the program has been getting together with the people each week, chatting and making friends. She said everyone she has met has been nice and helpful which makes showing up each week something she looks forward to and enjoys. She wasn’t sure what to expect when she came to the first session because she has problems with her shoulder and didn’t know how much that would limit her. She was so grateful to the coaches for helping her make the needed adjustments to allow her to still learn proper technique and participate.
For more information on PGA Hope and other locations where programming is offered, head to their website here: https://www.pgareach.org/services/military