Disabled veterans getting golf course treatment

RIVERSIDE, Iowa – Golf is more than a game.

"It's very cathartic," says Glynn's Creek Golf Course assistant golf pro Mike Armes.

"You wanted to hit that hard, didn't you?" Armes asked a golfer as he offers tips at a unique program provided to Iowa's disabled veterans.

At this driving range, golf is medical treatment.

"These people have experienced untold things and they share a lot with you," he explains.

For ten years now, the Veterans Administration has teamed up with the Iowa PGA and Riverside Casino and Golf Resort to give golf lessons to injured veterans, free of charge.

It's called the GIVE Foundation, which stands for Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere.  It has helped more than 700 veterans: some blind, others physically disabled or facing PTSD and other illnesses.

And Mike Armes wants to help.

"I get more out of it than they do."

Armes comes to the Riverside Golf Resort's Blue Top Ridge south of Iowa City to help fellow veterans get over not only their slices and hooks but also their injuries and internal struggles.

"It gives these guys and gals a chance to take their mind off any pain they may happen to have, and surgeries they have coming up," he explained.

Jim Dickerson is the PGA teaching pro who helps coordinate the lessons for the injured vets, many who may not have physical scars to show but are suffering from PTSD and have troubles focusing.

"Everywhere else they go," he explained, "they have a thousand things running through their minds and once they get something they can focus on, it gets better."

But that's not the only benefit for veterans on the golf course.

"Getting out and bonding with other veterans is remarkable," said John Oxley who was on the driving range getting lessons to improve his game.

Oxley is a V-A worker who has referred disabled and even homeless veterans to the program.

"You see it everyday where you can see veterans usually comment on a one-to-one level, getting good feedback from a peer," he said.

And for Dickerson, a retired Sergeant Major who served in Vietnam, he knows these golf lessons won't go far unless there's someone teaming up with each veteran.

That's why the GIVE Foundation golf lessons are also offered to a spouse or friend, someone who will go to the course and play a round with the vet.

"We want them to go through the program as well because that will be more encouragement to continue on and participate," said Dickerson.

INTERESTED?  Here's what you need to know:

  1. All Vets are screened and placed into classes through the Iowa City VA Medical Center, and Sioux Falls VA Medical Center.
  2. Call the office of Kirt Sickels (Iowa City) to start the process – 319-358-5963 or Ann Nelson (Sioux Falls) – 605-373-4143.
  3. Each class meets five times.
  4. Equipment is provided by the program
  5. Companions are encouraged and welcome!
  6. Upon completion of the program, you will receive an ID card that will grant you golf privileges at participating facilities in the area
  7. This program is for Vets who have golf experience and those that have never played before!