Spend 6 Weeks with an Angel and It Will Change Your Life
By Keith Stewart, PGA
PGA HOPE Programs like Angel’s can aspire to grow thanks to generous support from the thousands of everyday proud Americans who will golf and support Veterans and Military Families during Patriot Golf Days weekend.
Angel Diaz, PGA signed up for a 6-week golf program a couple decades ago. That moment in time changed the trajectory of his life story. Following a 22-year active career in the Navy, Diaz had a decision to make. He was stationed in Hawaii, and his time serving the Armed Forces was coming to an end. He had a very important life choice to make. “What will I do next?”
He remembered some important advice – if you choose a calling you're passionate about, you’ll never work another day in your life. Angel thought about a thousand different options, but in the end, there really was only one choice for him. His heart told him golf was the only career choice.
And from 2013 to 2021, that’s what Angel Diaz did. He held a traditional club professional job in the golf industry. Like so many, he was still in search of a little more out of his career
He remembered those 6 weeks back on the Naval base so many years ago and how that simple golf clinic caught his attention and planted a love for the game inside him. Today, Angel Diaz runs his own six-week PGA HOPE program alongside Past PGA President Gary Schaal in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
In 2022, Angel and Gary will host seven, six week sessions with 21 Veterans each week. Their PGA HOPE program location has changed the lives of over 380 veterans. In addition to their military outreach, the pair oversee beginner programs as well. The duo works tirelessly, growing the game in an area where golf couldn’t be more popular.
Angel laughs, “I learned in a six-week program on a military base and now I teach a six-week program to introduce golf to Veterans.”
He believes golf mirrors life in so many ways.
“The fact I can take the two biggest parts of my life and combine them is amazing,” Diaz commented.
Diaz makes a living teaching the game to the same people who helped shape his professional life. The rewards he once felt for serving his country, now come in the form of changing Veterans’ lives. He doesn’t believe that’s hyperbole. Angel recounts every 6 week class and remembers the evolution each participant goes through from the moment he or she begins to graduation day.
Every single Veteran starts the same. Most are timid because they are injured – injured on the inside. “That first class is always quiet,” says Diaz. “But I’ve taught these classes before and they are all the same.” In a recent class, there was a Veteran. The veteran showed up and sternly asked what they were doing. Diaz replied, “We’re playing golf today.” That’s it, he doesn’t say anything else. Angel lets the golf do the rest. By week two he starts to talk, and by week three he’s interacting with others.
“I promise you that my success in this program doesn’t come from the fact I’m a Veteran also. It stems from getting people to play the game. In my current programs, I love week one. I always try to choose who my guy will be.”
The veteran was homeless when he met Angel Diaz. He was at a low point in life. Angel was right week one. He doesn’t need to say much because golf will do the rest. A couple weeks in, when he opened up, he started showing up dressed for the golf course for the first time.
Angel Diaz comes across as a man on mission when you talk to him. His passion is infectious and his thoughtfulness for every Veteran is admirable. Ill His next goal is that he wants to grow the PGA HOPE Program that he and Gary have started, into another program in the area.
“Honestly, the program sells itself. We don’t need to recruit any Veterans. Once the vets are done with his or her six weeks in PGA HOPE, he or she becomes an advocate and the golf just does the rest,” Diaz repeated.