Fort Belvoir, Va. (Sept. 11, 2014) - More than 50 Warrior Transition Battalion Soldiers and Family members from Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center learned the basics of golf at the Golf Club, Saturday during an adaptive sports clinic. The clinic is designed to introduce wounded, injured and ill servicemembers to the game, promote therapeutic rehabilitation and encourage outdoor recreation.
The program, begun in 2008 by Steve Greiner, Professional Golfers Association member and Golf Club instructor, aims to provide Soldiers with opportunities to develop their skills in driving, putting, chipping and engaging in regulation play.
Greiner, along with Rick Zarlengo, Golf Club PGA professional; Dick Johns, a retired colonel and adapted golf coordinator and instructor; and several other PGA pros and volunteers, offered tips and advice to the participants throughout the event and provided all the necessary equipment.
"We offer this program in the spring and the fall, with eight weeks of instruction each," Greiner said. "For six of those eight weeks we're out practicing; we have a practice green and a practice range and we teach the game. For two of those weeks we go out onto the golf course -- one week in the middle of the period and one at the end."
Greiner said much of the success results from the quality of instruction provided to the participants regardless of their ability at the start of the program.
"We have a really good group of people here to teach, including PGA professionals who have come from all over the state," he said. "Plus we have a first-class group of volunteers here for the program."
According to Steve Smutak, Fort Belvoir Warrior Transition Battalion, military adapted sports program director, Saturday's event drew a record crowd.
"This is the biggest turnout we've had yet; this program is really growing here at Belvoir," he said.
A primary goal of the program is to enable wounded Soldiers to develop a passion for the game and a desire to continue to safely develop their skills beyond the training clinic.
"Instructional programs teach you what to practice -- and it's the practice that makes you good," Griener said. "So when (the athletes) leave here we're hoping they're out there hitting balls two or three times a week. The most important thing is safety. (The Soldiers) are all different and they all have different physical situations, so the instructors tailor their instruction to those unique situations. We also like to have the servicemembers talk to their instructors so they know what they're comfortable with and what skills they've been working on."
Instructors divided the participants into three groups, each starting out on a different area of the golf course, to receive one-on-one instruction from the professionals following brief discussions regarding the basics of gripping the club, developing an effective swing and lining up putts.
Participants spent the two-hour session on the driving range, putting green and chip-shot area of the Gunston Course and Golf Club staff provided shuttle carts to transport the golfers.
Greiner, who has worked at the Fort Belvoir Golf Club since 1999, said the focus of the program is always on the Soldiers themselves.
"This is something we want to continue expanding because these Soldiers are our own," he said. "That's why we're here, to take care of Soldiers."
For more information regarding the Wounded Soldier Golf program, call Smutak at (703) 805-6898 or the Golf Club at (703) 806-5878.