TULSA, Okla. — It is almost time for the PGA Championship in Tulsa.
And while that is, of course, a very important event for Green Country, the PGA is also doing other work that is just as impactful.
A program called PGA HOPE aims to help veterans connect and socialize with other veterans through golf. It is one part of the PGA REACH charitable foundation, which looks to improve lives through golf.
The word HOPE is an acronym for Helping Our Patriots Everywhere. It is to get veterans involved with the game.
One of several groups in Green Country meets at The Club at Indian Springs in Broken Arrow.
Waco Blakley is a Marine Corps and Air Force Veteran. He is also the PGA HOPE South Central ambassador.
“We're getting veterans out of their homes, that might be dealing with PTSD, anxiety, traumatic brain injury,” Waco said. “That isolation is very unhealthy.”
The goal of the program is to make meaningful connections.
“It’s absolutely just tremendous,” Waco Said. “And these men of all now share phone numbers, they're having coffee with one another. It's just a unique way for them to connect with one another. And a little bit of exercise with golf.”
PGA HOPE is free for the veterans, funded by PGA REACH. They meet each week for 6 to 8 weeks at a time. Each group has a PGA PRO instructor, who is also trained in adaptive coaching and military culture.
“They're very attentive, very driven and determined people,” Waco said. “And more importantly, they love veterans.”
Thomas Nickles is one of the many veterans who participate in PGA HOPE.
“I love hitting the ball,” Nickles said. “It's such a stress relief for me, you know, and I need it. But I enjoy it totally. This is a highlight of my day to come out here with these guys.”
Nickles said Blakley convinced him to come out to the golf course to help cope.
“I have anxiety and once I come out here, it's like I stepped off to another planet,” Nickles said. “So, it's really been a great deal for me.”
And it can be a great deal for you, as well.
“We're always in pursuit of trying to find veterans,” Blakley said. “But Oklahoma is a very unique place because nobody loves veterans like Oklahoma does.”
PGA HOPE and the Department of Veterans Affairs have a Memorandum of Understanding. This enables it to refer the veterans to the program to help, as a form of therapy.
If you are a veteran and want to participate, or just want to learn more about PGA HOPE, head to their website.
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