Wounded Warrior takes golf pilot program challenge
February 17, 2009
- National Amputee Golf Association's First Swing Learn to Golf program is presented by the Army Family & Morale, Welfare & Recreation Command
- PGA instructors work with Wounded warriors
SAN DIEGO - U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program track and field Paralympic hopeful Sgt. Jerrod Fields will never forget his first swing at a golf ball.
Fields, an all-around athlete who lost his lower left leg to an improvised explosive device in Baghdad, Iraq, took his first whack at golf Feb. 3 on the driving range at Admiral Baker Golf Club.
While television news cameras filmed and newspaper photographers clicked away, Fields stepped up to the tee as if he does it every day.
"I kind of pumped myself up," he said. "When I saw the cameras on, I was like, 'OK, let's get it.' You never know who is watching and where it's going to end up."
As if there was not already enough pressure, 14 PGA-certified instructors loomed over his shoulder.
"This was a blast," Fields said. "First time playing golf, and having a camera crew out here and professionals to help me with the golf swing, it was awesome.
"Meeting professionals, I'm all for it," continued Fields, 26, a Chicago native stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., who is based at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. "One day I desire to meet different sports figures: Tiger Woods, LeBron James and other various athletes. They might see this and I might get a call or something."
In the meantime, Fields urges every wounded warrior in the U.S. military to take advantage of the First Swing program.
The National Amputee Golf Association's First Swing Learn to Golf program is presented by the Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command and the United States Golf Association. The purpose is to encourage wounded service members to return to an active lifestyle as soon as they are able, by assisting them in adapting their golf game to compensate for their injuries.
"Fort Carson conducted a First Swing pilot program last July and we saw the success that the team had with the wounded warriors there," said Trace Kea, a PGA member and program analyst at FMWRC. "So FMWRC decided to partner with them and the USGA to take this program to several different installations."
"This program is to help give the Soldiers an alternative," Kea said. "Rehabilitative benefits of golf can improve the mental and physical condition of each and every Soldier returning... not just those with visible injuries."
"I've seen nearly every type of injury on the driving range, from double- or triple-amputees playing with state-of-the-art prosthetics, to others with shrapnel wounds, spinal-cord injuries, and neurological deficits," Kea said.
"Many of our Soldiers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Seeing those men and women playing touched me, and I knew we had to get involved."
The First Swing tour has scheduled stops in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Feb. 21-23; Fort Belvoir, Va., March 22-24; Fort Bragg, N.C., April 19-20; Fort Campbell, Ky., May 10-11; Fort Lewis, Wash., July 18-19; and Fort Jackson, S.C., Sept. 13-14.
Fields joined the Army in November of 2002, deployed to Baghdad in January of 2005, and was injured a month later.
He rehabbed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.