48 Veterans Tee it Up in 8th Secretary’s Cup Before 2023 PGA Championship
By Ari Edelman
The 8th PGA HOPE Secretary’s Cup at Penfield Country Club was a celebration of 48 military Veterans from across America and their shared love of the game of golf.
The Secretary’s Cup took place less than eight miles from Oak Hill Country Club, the site of the 2023 PGA Championship and kicked off with an Opening Ceremonies welcome from Buffalo Bills legend and NFL Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas, who thanked the Veterans for their service and sacrifice. The Veterans were also honored with a flyover of helicopters from the New York State Police and Mercy Flight Central.
PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere), the flagship military program of PGA REACH, is a rehabilitative golf program that introduces golf to Veterans to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. PGA HOPE offers golf through a developmental, six- to eight-week curriculum taught by PGA Professionals trained in adaptive golf and military cultural competency. All programs are funded by PGA REACH and supplemented by PGA Section foundations, so the cost of programming is free to all Veterans.
For Monday’s main event, 12 teams from across the country, consisting of one PGA Professional and four military Veterans who have participated in the PGA HOPE program, competed in a spirited 9-hole match, as part of 2023 PGA Championship Community Relations activities for PGA REACH.
“The camaraderie and energy out here at Penfield Country Club is amazing, it’s really incredible,” said PGA President John Lindert, PGA Director of Golf at the Country Club of Lansing (Michigan). “I love that after every shot, no matter where the ball lands, you’ll hear cheers, and see high fives and fist bumps. That’s what PGA HOPE is all about. To see the real impact this program has on so many Veterans’ lives is emotional, and it’s why we continue to invest in growing PGA HOPE.”
PGA HOPE is currently being offered at more than 341 program locations in the U.S. today, across 47 States and 40 PGA Sections. In 2022, the program positively impacted 7,500 Veterans. This year, the program is on pace to positively impact more than 11,000 Veterans.
“Using golf as a form of therapy is saving lives, and it’s incredible to see the PGA of America continue to lean in to support our Veteran Community,” said PGA HOPE Military & Veteran Liaison Chris Nowak during the Opening Ceremonies. The PGA HOPE is currently being offered at more than 341 program locations in the U.S. today, across 47 States and 40 PGA Sections. In 2022 the program positively impacted 7,500 Veterans, and during the opening ceremonies, Chris Nowak, the PGA HOPE Military & Veteran & Liaison acknowledged the program is on pace to positively impact more than is 11,000 Veterans in 2023.“
Led by PGA Lifetime Member and U.S. Army Veteran Joel Williamson, PGA HOPE Northern Texas Captured the 2023 PGA HOPE Secretary’s Cup at 5-under par. Williamson, who has served as an instructor for the PGA HOPE Program in Northern Texas (Killeen chapter) for the past 3 years, led the winning team of U.S. Army Veterans Mark Anderson, Antonio Sanchez, Louis Whidbee and Chris Ryan.
“Making the trip to Rochester and having the opportunity to meet and share stories with fellow Veterans from across the country was the victory,” said Williamson. “This is a brotherhood, and we lean on each other when all is going well, and more importantly, show unconditional support if someone is having a tough day.”
PGA HOPE New England captured the inaugural Journey Award, recognizing the importance of the overall journey. Jo-Anna Krupa, a PGA Professional at Belmont Country Club in Massachusetts, who serves as an instructor for the PGA HOPE Program in the New England PGA Section, participated alongside the first-ever team consisting of all-women Veterans: Nancy O'Reilly (Navy); Sue Hall (Army); Megan Sullivan (Army); Liseth Velez (Air Force).
As part of the overall experience, all teams arrived in Rochester, N.Y. on Saturday, May 13, participated in practice rounds on Sunday and played in the Secretary’s Cup on Monday. The Veterans will also attend a PGA Championship practice round at Oak Hill.
PGA Sections in the 2023 PGA HOPE Secretary’s Cup:
- PGA HOPE Western New York (3 teams)
- PGA HOPE Kentucky
- PGA HOPE Carolinas
- PGA HOPE New England
- PGA HOPE Gateway
- PGA HOPE South Central
- PGA HOPE Middle Atlantic
- PGA HOPE Northern California
- PGA HOPE Northern Texas
- PGA HOPE Philadelphia
Several PGA WORKS Fellows from across the country served as standard bearers for the teams including: Karena Ballard, Tyler Bealke, Kyra Cox, Rachel Goetz, Haleigh Gray, Destany Hall, Cristina Hidalgo, Taylor Hunter, Hannah Randolph, Caroline Riggs, Bryce Walker, Gerrick Walker and Sloane Withers.