EAST AMHERST, N.Y. (WKBW) — In the summer, Wednesdays are circled on the calendar for both local veterans and local golf professionals. The PGA's "Helping our Patriots Everywhere" (Hope) program has been growing for years.
"It's becoming a family, you know?" U.S. Marine Corps veteran Joe Wooley said. "That's something a lot of us miss from the military, because it's very difficult to find in the civilian world."
The family at Glen Oak Golf Club welcomes veterans of all ages, experiences, and skill levels on the golf course. The eight-week program is about more than just greens and tee boxes.
"[Veterans] are pretty remarkable people. And golf is a magical game," PGA Hope Ambassador Scott Smalter said. "When you bring people like that and the sport together, it makes conversations— deeper conversations— a lot easier to have."
The camaraderie and the conversations that happen on the golf course can make all the difference in the world, especially if a veteran is struggling. The instructors don't take their job— or their impact— lightly, either.
"I actually had, a couple years ago, a veteran come up and say, 'Golf saved my life. You saved my life teaching me the game of golf,'" Glen Oak's head golf professional Anthony Schiro said. "They thank us, and I just feel like that's a little bit backwards."
PGA Hope began in early June and will run through late July. Golf clubs in Youngstown, N.Y., Rush, N.Y., and Waterford, Pa. also offer summer programs. Veterans interested in future sessions can learn more through their local Veterans Affairs offices.