By Rich O'Brien, Operations Manager, PGA HOPE Charleston
Two years ago, I was honored to become a member of the Board of Directors for the National Alliance for Accessible Golf. I strive to be a strong advocate for individuals, like myself, battling injuries, illnesses, or challenges.
As Operations Manager for PGA HOPE Charleston, the model program for the PGA of America's flagship military outreach, Helping Our Patriots Everywhere, I have witnessed first-hand how Veterans participating in the program experience a renewed sense of hope as well as the benefits of being in a community of their brothers and sisters once again. To date, more than a dozen Veterans have told me that they are alive today because of our program. Personally, I cannot think of a more important mission or a better way to spend my time, talent, and treasure.
Rich O'Brien is the Operations Manager for PGA HOPE (Charleston). The National Alliance for Accessible Golf is a charitable organization working to ensure the opportunity for all individuals to play the game of golf. The Alliance is represented by major golf organizations in the United States, organizations that provide services for people with disabilities, and other advocates. Through GAIN™ (Golf: Accessible and Inclusive Networks) and other programs, the Alliance promotes inclusion and awareness to the golf industry, golf instructors, and the public. For more information about Alliance programs and resources including Best Practices for Courses and Programs and the Toolkit for Golf Course Owners & Operators, please visit accessgolf.org.
What makes the Lowcountry of South Carolina truly unique is that, in addition to the Charleston PGA HOPE program, the Adaptive Golf Experience at Parris Island is also considered one of the community-based adaptive golf programs to emulate.
As a writer, I enjoy writing inspirational stories of individuals that have used golf as therapy to assist their recovery. The National Alliance for Accessible Golf has also asked me to write best practice articles and to identify golf courses that have made facilities welcoming and accessible for individuals with injuries, illnesses, or challenges.
The Charleston PGA HOPE and Parris Island Adaptive Golf Experience programs have been prominently featured in several best practices articles at all types of golf courses in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, including resort, private, municipal and military, including Kiawah Island Golf Resort, the Daniel Island Club, Kiawah Island Club, Wescott Golf Club, and the Adaptive Golf Experience at Parris Island.
The goal of these programs is to make it as easy as possible for individuals with mental, physical, or emotional challenges to be able to easily locate trained instructors, facilities with accessible carts, and therapeutic golf programs. The National Alliance For Accessible Golf is where those seeking information on accessible programs, including those who wish to participate and courses considering accessible and adaptive programs, should begin their search.
If the golf industry truly wants to look like the communities in which we all live, then striving to welcome the 25% of the population that often gets left on the sideline should be part of the equation. In that respect, the South Carolina Lowcountry is charting a path for therapeutic golf programs.