PGA HOPE Dream Team: Matt Underwood and Talton Cherry
By Keith Stewart, PGA
Matt Underwood (center) with fellow Veterans during the Golf Training event for PGA HOPE National Golf & Wellness Week at East Potomac Golf Course, Washington, DC on October 26, 2019
The PGA of America’s charitable program designed to Help Our Patriots Everywhere is the flagship military engagement program of PGA REACH. PGA HOPE is a free, adaptive program that introduces golf to Veterans and Active Duty Military to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being.
When it comes to putting together a successful PGA HOPE program, it’s hard to beat a better example than the work of two Veterans in the Middle Atlantic PGA Section – Talton Cherry and Matt Underwood.
Talton Cherry served in the Coast Guard - stationed in Boston and San Francisco. When his time in service was complete, he needed some direction for his life. A former college baseball player, Talton appreciated athletics and his fellow Veterans. That intersection drove him to a golf tournament called “Invest in HOPE.”
“Invest in HOPE” was being played outside San Francisco and the connection between the game of golf and Veterans caught his attention. Instantly, he was driven to find out how he could contribute. Just as he started to connect with the group, he and his wife were on the move due to a change in her deployment. Upon arriving in Maryland, Talton accepted an internship with the Middle Atlantic PGA Section supporting the Section’s junior golf tour.
His inspiration for golf still came in the vehicle of PGA HOPE, and Talton was hopeful he could stay connected. The next season, he was hired as the Middle Atlantic PGA Section’s Junior Golf Director. Now employed, he could run the Junior Tour and support the PGA HOPE programs in his free time. The Junior Tour has about 80 events a summer, so where his time lacks, that’s when retired Navy veteran and PGA HOPE ambassador, Matt Underwood, steps in.
Matt Underwood, a Navy Veteran, graduated PGA HOPE in 2018. Matt played golf in the Navy as a release. The guys would always get together to have fun, play golf and drink. It was a great way to unwind. He was drawn to the game post-military service because of his internal struggles with PTSD. The game gave him a way to appreciate the present.
Graduating from PGA HOPE changed his life. “Golf teaches you all of the necessary mental building blocks you need.” stresses Underwood. “It provides an outlet with discipline and community.” That community is where Matt makes his biggest impact. In 2019, the Middle Atlantic Section nominated him to become their Ambassador, a title that Matt earned because of his ability to share his story with the Veteran community so others like him can receive the benefits of the program.
Talton and Underwood work together to spread the word about PGA HOPE however they can. Cherry knows the power of growing the program from veteran to veteran. “Having Matt as an ambassador is the key. His passion for the program sells itself when he talks to his fellow vets.” Talton went on further to describe Matt’s ability to captivate everyone’s attention for PGA HOPE.
“When you watch Matt volunteer at a clinic or when he’s recruiting you can see it in his body language, his facial expressions. He’s an exuberant guy, but when he starts talking about PGA HOPE he becomes even more positive!”
There are 14 program locations in the Middle Atlantic Section and calls come in all the time from Veterans eager to participate. You can find the Veteran duo at First Tee events and Drive, Chip, and Putt qualifiers sharing information, or any golf event where they can put up a tent - they're there advocating for PGA HOPE.
Golf teaches you all of the necessary mental building blocks you need. It provides an outlet with discipline and community.
Great success in golf comes from a team effort. Whether it is a better ball tournament, coach-player relationship or the operator and promoter relationship, Matt and Talton exemplify team effort towards a shared mission. Together they have managed to introduce the game to over 400 veterans since 2017. Their story is special, but it also is simple. Their success comes down to collaboration and commitment. Together, they are a perfect pairing to grow the PGA HOPE program in their region.
And what’s next for the pair?
“We just want to continue getting more vets involved. The impact on their lives we feel is the ultimate reward.”
There’s no doubt these two Veterans are making a difference and you can too. As you can see, you don’t have to be a golf expert to get involved. As these two have shown, all you need is a passion to serve and to grow the game.
If you or someone you know about would benefit from PGA HOPE, visit www.pgahope.com for more information.
PGA of America
The PGA of America is one of the world's largest sports organizations, composed of PGA of America Golf Professionals who work daily to grow interest and participation in the game of golf.