It happens to us all. The period after Halloween and leading up to Thanksgiving is a blur. One set of decorations is changed out for another. Holiday shopping begins in earnest. Travel plans for “Turkey Day” get solidified.
It’s all too easy to blow right by Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
Matt Jennings, owner of Cherokee Valley Course and Club, knows the importance of hitting the pause button this month to recognize our active duty military, reservists and veterans. His P.B. Dye-designed course north of Greenville is hosting a par-3 tournament at 9 a.m. on Nov. 16 to benefit the Asheville chapter of PGA HOPE (Helping our Patriots Everywhere).
“We are fortunate in this industry that golf provides so many avenues for helping our servicemen and women, and for giving back to those who have sacrificed so much for us and this country,” says Jennings. “I’d encourage anyone with a love for the game and this country to seek out ways to get involved.”
Cherokee Valley has a strong contingent of veteran members across military branches. Jennings and his team go out of their way to create a supportive, appreciate and fun environment for them all. Upstate South Carolina also has deep military ties, with more than 100,000 veterans and active duty military residing in its five-county footprint.
For golfers looking to engage with Veterans organizations in this area or nationally, here are a handful of options with diverse and impactful missions.
1. PGA HOPE
About: PGA HOPE is the flagship military program of PGA REACH Carolinas, the charitable foundation of the Carolinas PGA and its 2,000 professionals. The nation-wide program helps veterans enhance their mental, social, physical, and emotional well-being through golf and instruction from trained PGA Professionals.
Golf Connection: The PGA of America is all about growing the game. And PGA HOPE is an amazing arm of the organization. It introduces veterans with disabilities to golf through a six to eight-week curriculum taught by PGA Professionals trained in adaptive golf and military cultural competency. The support of Jack Nicklaus, the Nicklaus Family and the Nicklaus Companies has helped expand PGA HOPE’s reach exponentially.
Get Involved: carolinas.pga.com/foundation/pga-hope/
2. Upstate Warrior Solution
About: Servicemen and women have crystal clear missions and well-defined job duties while enlisted. Upon returning to civilian life, things can get murky. Upstate Warrior Solution helps with the transition by providing quality of life solutions for Upstate veterans, active duty military, National Guard members, reservists and their families.
Think of Upstate Warrior Solution as a one-stop shop for the warrior community to get assistance with employment, healthcare, benefits, education, training, housing and mentorship. It carefully follows a four-step plan – connect, educate, advocate and collaborate – for integrating veterans into their respective communities.
Golf Connection: Upstate Warrior Solution is a longtime partner of the Korn Ferry (formerly Web.com) Tour BMW Charity Pro-Am held at Thornblade Club in Greer and The Cliffs Valley near Travelers Rest. For several years it has hosted a Golf Channel “Big Break” style competition the eve of the BMW Charity Pro-Am. In 2019 it launched the first “Big Break: Warrior Top Golf Edition” at the new Greenville Top Golf facility.
Get Involved: upstatewarriorsolution.org
3. Folds of Honor Palmetto State Chapter
About: “Honor Their Sacrifice. Educate Their Legacy.” The Folds of Honor’s motto succinctly sums up its mission. Founded in 2007 by Lt. Col Dan Rooney, USAF, the organization provides educational scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled service-members. The Palmetto State Chapter is uber-active and coordinates numerous events with the national organization.
Golf Connection: Patriot Golf Day was launched in concert with Folds of Honor in 2007. Initially held over Labor Day weekend, it has evolved into a year-long event at clubs and courses throughout the U.S. Any golf facility can host a Patriot Golf Day event anytime. Golfers are simply asked to add one dollar to their green fees as a donation. All monies raised via the Palmetto State Chapter stay in the Upstate.
4. Veteran Golfers Association
About: Established in 2014 and located in the heart of Pinehurst, the Veteran Golfers Association (VGA) has had a major impact in a short period of time. The VGA is up to 7,000 members and is projected to hit 10,000 by the end of 2020.
Annually, the VGA hosts more than 250 local tournaments for thousands of VGA members across the country, culminating in the VGA National Championship at a high-profile resort or course. Translation: this is THE golf organization and tour for hard core veteran golfers of all skill levels.
Golf Connection: How cool is this? Colter Kautzmann and Laurel Gill, winners of the men’s and women’s divisions at the 2019 VGA National Championship held at The Greenbrier, earned invitations to the 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
What’s more, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announced at the ceremonial dinner that Kautzmann will receive a sponsor’s exemption to compete in the PGA TOUR’s 2020 A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.
5. Wounded Warrior Project
About: Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is one of the largest and longest-standing Veterans-focused charities in the U.S. The WWP offers a variety of programs ranging from mental and physical wellness to career and VA benefits counseling. Wounded veterans who have completed a program and reinvigorated their civilian lives are referred to as “alumni.”
Golf Connection: One of the first beneficiaries of course management company Billy Casper Golf’s “World’s Largest Golf Outing,” WWP relies on funds raised through charity golf events throughout the U.S. Upstate Warrior Solution works closely with WWP here regionally, including shared fundraisers like the Big Break Warrior and Top Golf events.
Get Involved: woundedwarriorproject.org/give-back