Organized by the Utah Golf Foundation, the initiative has hosted a veterans’ competition in Logan for the past five years. The foundation worked in conjunction with the Veterans Affairs office in Salt Lake City, Utah, to create the program, which typically includes golf lessons for veterans, a 9-hole scramble tournament, dinner, awards and a keynote speaker. “I have loved it,” veteran Jon Ham says. “You get great camaraderie with the other vets and get to see the different courses and get to learn how to golf.”
Utah veterans took to the Logan Country Club golf course on Aug. 22 as part of “Veterans on Course,” a program that holds frequent golf competitions for veterans across the state, The Herald Journal reported.
Organized by the Utah Golf Foundation, the nonprofit branch of the Utah Golf Association, the initiative has hosted a veterans’ competition in Logan for the past five years.
Megan Huntsman, the foundation’s senior activity coordinator, explained the roots of the program stretch back to discussions between the association and several individuals they thought would be helpful in starting the project, The Herald Journal reported. The conversations involved several members of the foundation’s board of directors, a United States Golf Association official, and William Klinger, a recreation therapist at the Veterans Affairs office in Salt Lake City.
Speaking with The Herald Journal, Klinger recalled the foundation approaching the Salt Lake VA to kickstart the program.
“They said they wanted to see if they could do something for vets,” Klinger said. “They were beyond accommodating — they were beyond Santa Claus.”
Klinger and the foundation worked together to create the outline for the program’s numerous events, The Herald Journal reported.
The schedules of the events begin with an hour of golf lessons for the veterans. Afterwards, there is a 9-hole scramble tournament and a social event where dinner is served, awards are granted and a keynote speaker addresses attendees.
Huntsman told The Herald Journal the program attracts veterans from all over the state to the several competitions held each year. Typically, 60 veterans can attend each event, which, according to Huntsman, are always full. She estimated roughly half of the players are regulars.
Though Huntsman was an intern when Veterans on Course started, she has been involved since the first events, The Herald Journal reported. She noted a particularly meaningful experience she had when a veteran with severe trauma became involved with the program.
“He hadn’t left his house in a couple years. His post-traumatic stress was really bad,” Huntsman explained.
When the man eventually did leave his home, it was to attend a Veterans on Course event, The Herald Journal reported. He stayed the entire time and became a regular. Before the first Veterans on Course event he attended, Huntsman said, “he had never picked up clubs.”
“He was able to really kind of break through his anxiety and, you know, whatever else he was going through,” Huntsman said. “We were able to help him find a way to do something that was recreationally healthy and socially healthy with people who understood what he was going through.”
One of the veterans on the Logan course Monday was Mick Thompson, a Southern California native who served in Vietnam, The Herald Journal reported. He has participated in the program for the past several years and expressed gratitude for the opportunity.
“It’s amazing how they do this much stuff for us veterans,” Thompson said. “This program is great.”
Thompson told The Herald Journal he has also seen his golf skills grow as he’s attended the events — the first time he ever hit a par was in the program.
“I’m not going to be around too much longer, but I’m going to enjoy every one of these outings,” Thompson said.
Jon Ham — a Sandy native who served in the military from 1977 to 1983 — is another who regularly participates in the program, The Herald Journal reported. He said he first got involved about a year and a half ago.
“I have loved it,” Ham said. “You get great camaraderie with the other vets and get to see the different courses and get to learn how to golf.”
Ham said the program has helped him both emotionally and physically.
Klinger said the golf events have multiple positive effects on veterans, the biggest of which he didn’t attribute to the sport itself, The Herald Journal reported.
“It’s the camaraderie, the gathering of veterans. They have a world that’s a little unique to them,” Klinger said.
He told The Herald Journal the atmosphere provides another benefit.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ugly golf course in my life,” Klinger said. “You’re in some beautiful setting that, even if golf isn’t your thing, you’re like, ‘I am in nature right now.’ It is so peaceful.”
Klinger listed the skill development and communication that comes with golf as a third benefit, and also talked about what community members can do to help veterans.
“Give a vet your time,” Klinger said. “Show them your respect.”
He also mentioned how people can donate to the many foundations aimed toward serving veterans, The Herald Journal reported.
“I grew up in the 60s, the Vietnam era. … I had friends that went overseas,” Klinger said. “In my generation, I think we’ve made a mistake. We did a lot of protesting of the warrior and not the war, and so my thought is you may not be big on war, but please celebrate and support the warrior. They need you.”