America's Heroes Compete in PGA HOPE Secretary's Cup
By Michael Abramowitz, PGA
Less than 15 miles from Southern Hills Country Club, PGA Championship week teed off with the 2022 PGA HOPE Secretary’s Cup at The Club at Indian Springs in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
Twelve teams consisting of four military Veterans and one PGA Professional qualified to compete in the spirited nine-hole golf competition that features America’s heroes who have participated in the PGA HOPE(Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) program hosted by their local PGA Sections. PGA HOPE, the flagship military program of PGA REACH, is a rehabilitative golf program for Veterans and Active-duty Military, that enhances their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. This was the first full-field event since 2019.
Following the opening ceremonies where the Tulsa Warbird Foundation performed a spectacular flyover with P51 Mustangs, and Oklahoma military families honored the memory of their lost service members, Team New Jersey was first off the tee.
Led by Pete Stefanchik, PGA Head Golf Professional at Hawk Pointe Golf Club, PGA HOPE New Jersey opened up with an eagle on the first hole and never looked back. Joined by U.S. Army Veterans David Ryden and Garret Hrynko, U.S. Air Force Veteran Jared Forest and Marines Corps Veteran Jim Csogi, Team New Jersey captured the 2022 Secretary’s Cup, finishing at 7 under. Csogi, who served 21 years in the Marines, sank a 14-foot birdie putt on the final hole to give New Jersey its third Secretary’s Cup title (2017, 2018) since the competition started in 2016.
Stefanchik, who comes from a military family, teared up when discussing the experience.
“This is what it’s all about, this is my major,” he said. “These guys mean the world to me, and to share this incredible experience with them is so rewarding.”
Hrynko, who served in the Army for three years, celebrated with his fellow Veterans.
The participating teams included PGA HOPE South Central, the host section that fielded two teams (Tulsa and Oklahoma City), along with PGA HOPE Carolinas, PGA HOPE Georgia, PGA HOPE Illinois, PGA HOPE Kentucky, PGA HOPE Nebraska, PGA HOPE New Jersey, PGA HOPE Northern California, PGA HOPE Northern Texas, PGA HOPE Philadelphia and PGA HOPE Western New York.
“These are America’s heroes, and when the uniform comes off, many Veterans lose their identity and have a difficult time reacclimating back into society,” said PGA Vice President John Lindert. “This program is truly providing hope for their future. It’s so rewarding to see the camaraderie and smiles on these Veterans’ faces, whether they bomb their drive 200+ yards straight down the fairway or they mishit it.”
Led by PGA Professionals, PGA HOPE programs are currently offered at more than 215 locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, across 46 States and 40 PGA Sections. In 2021, the program positively impacted 4,500 Veterans, and the 2022 goal is 7,500 Veterans served. It is the only adaptive golf program that has an MOU with the Department of Veterans Affairs, which enables VA Facilities to refer Veterans to the PGA HOPE program as a form of therapy.
The shot of the day came from Team Nebraska’s PGA Professional Mark Nygaard, who is also a United States Army Veteran. Nygaard drained a 50-foot birdie putt on the final hole, a meaningful way to finish out the Secretary’s Cup.
As part of the experience, all out-of-town teams arrived in Tulsa on Saturday and participated in practice rounds on Sunday. Following the Secretary’s Cup, Veterans will have an opportunity to attend a PGA Championship practice round at Southern Hills Country Club.