Golfers Say Game Good for Vets' Bodies, Minds

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2007 - A Maryland group is using its favorite game to positively affect combat-wounded veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Members of the Salute Military Golf Association believe the rehabilitative benefits of golf can improve the mental and physical condition of wounded servicemembers returning from combat, Jim Estes, the group's founder, said on the organization's Web site.

"The SMGA believes that every (servicemember) matters and should be given the opportunity to learn and improve his or her golf knowledge and skill," he said. "The SMGA will provide a venue and mentoring to this end."

Earlier this year, Estes and several other area pros, specifically trained to work with wounded veterans, started formalized golf clinics for wounded soldiers. Future similar events near military medical facilities in San Antonio and San Diego are in the works.

PGA of America and Disabled Sports USA sponsored the clinics. They are both supporters of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

Salute Military Golf Association, which began as a therapeutic outlet for soldiers undergoing prolonged medical treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, is a new supporter of the Defense Department program.

Estes began accompanying Walter Reed patients on weekly dinner outings arranged by one of his clients in 2004. This interaction showed him that servicemembers were eager to get back to sports like golf.

"Jim learned that some of the soldiers found something in golf they really seemed to need," said Ellen Kay, the organization's secretary. "Since (2004), many wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan have been exposed to the rehabilitative properties of the game of golf through Jim's efforts."

In addition to providing veterans with instruction through clinics and personalized instruction, Salute Military Golf Association works to secure benefits like reduced or free green fees and access to public and private golf facilities throughout the country. The organization also tries to equip veterans who show a true interest and dedication to the game with properly fitted clubs.

Salute Military Golf Association was introduced nationwide when Brian Williams featured Estes and the group on the NBC Nightly News. Locally, the Fox News affiliate in Washington has shined its spotlight toward the program and its volunteers. Even the PGA has taken notice of the Maryland golfers' work with the wounded, acknowledging it in a service announcement during its 89th Championships.

Kay said the group hopes its recent affiliation with America Supports You will attract attention from those who wish to help extend Salute Military Golf Association's work.

"We are very excited about our new affiliation with America Supports You," she said. "Already, this has resonated with a number of our potential and current supporters as the America Supports You program is well-respected and recognized for its tremendous positive impact."

*Related Sites:*
Salute Military Golf Association  [ ]
Disabled Sports USA  [ ]
Golfers Say Game Good for Vets' Bodies, Minds [ ]