(WPDE) PGA HOPE: How local veterans are healing PTSD through golf

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WPDE) — While golf can be frustrating to most of us, some Myrtle Beach veterans are using it to heal their PTSD.

It’s called PGA HOPE, and it stands for Helping Our Patriots Everywhere.

“The purpose of the PGA to create the PGA HOPE program is to help veterans with disabilities and to help them transition back into the community. And what we’re finding is, the most important part of the PGA HOPE program is that is exactly what it’s doing. It’s getting the veterans outside, out of their home, and into the community, and interacting with other veterans so they can transition into the community a lot smoother,” said Angel Diaz, Director of Project Golf.

There are more than 300 chapters of PGA HOPE sponsored by the PGA across the country, and the Grand Strand chapter has seen amazing success.

“We’re real proud to know that we’re leading in registrations and graduations across the country. We’re really happy with that. The reason for that is we’re funded and have great instructors,” said Gary Schaal, Executive Director of Project Golf and the past President of PGA of America.

Schaal said it’s the veterans who are telling each other about the program and even convincing those who don’t like golf to give it a try.

“I suffer from PTSD, and going to the golf course with my friends brings me a lot of laughter, a lot of joy. I used to hate golf, I thought it was stupid, but now I absolutely love golf. When I go on vacation I try to find a golf course. I love being around the veterans who share the same sense of humor and it does bring you a lot of camaraderie and peace and joy,” said Paul Yurkin a PGA Hope Ambassador.

Veterans start with lessons and eventually end up on the course playing together. They said getting out of the house and being with other veterans is really helping them.

“PGA HOPE has given me hope to get out of the house and gave me a purpose to be more interactive with people, said” Gordon Hoy a PGA Ambassador. He added, “It’s helped with anger, it’s helped with PTSD. Just being around the people and functioning, having that joke, and the life you’ve missed and grown accustomed to.”

Both Hoy and Yurkin said that while golf can be a frustrating game, they love it because it reminds them of the military and that’s a huge part of why it’s so helpful. Plus, more than half of the instructors are retired military including Schaal and Diaz.

“When I leave the house, I always tell my fiancé that I’m grabbing my gear and I’m heading out. When we get out there we have all of our tools, we have all of our gear, and you have to be on time and it is regimented and that’s what the veterans love. We miss the camaraderie, we miss the regiment of being involved with a team. When you have two guys with you or four guys with you, you’re back on a team and that’s your squad and it brings a lot of happiness,” said Yurkin.

“Golf, it’s a competitive thing. So you have the competitiveness, and it’s a game you’ll never perfect but you go out and you try to maintain it. You want to maintain your composure and honesty. You just keep those values in line and that’s what the military has taught us”

While PGA HOPE works with veterans, it’s under the umbrella of Project Golf, which has as an even bigger mission.

“Our target audience and there are three target audiences: one is disabled veterans, beginners, and underserved youth. So, we are working hard to address that and we know it’s working,” said Schaal.

In just its 5th year in Myrtle Beach, Schaal said they hope to keep it growing and helping all three of their target audiences for many years to come.

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North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582

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Project Golf is a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization

Project Golf is a member of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

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