Veterans hit the green fairways to cushion the blow


Christopher Cordova was a captain in the US Army in 2009 and is stationed in a remote area of ​​northern Afghanistan when hundreds of Taliban soldiers armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades were attacked during the dawn hours of October 3. Combat Outpost Keating from the surrounding mountainous outposts.

Under heavy fire, Cordova performed a blood transfusion for hours on the battlefield to keep a seriously wounded soldier.

Cordova, 43, has since retired from the military as a major, but she often mirrors the Kamdish battle, even while on the golf course, where the Silver Star Medal winner embraces the healing ingredients the sport can provide to soldiers with physical or cognitive issues.

The Mechanicsville, Maryland native was among 20 veterans from across the country invited to participate in the PGA Hope (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) picnic at the Congress Country Club on Monday. The event featured players of different skill levels from all branches of the military at the 18-hole venue in Bethesda, Maryland, which has hosted major tournaments, including the US Open, the PGA Championship and the Women’s PGA Championship.

“The split is something I try to talk about,” Cordova said. “It’s like I’ve been in some of the most horrible situations in the world, the worst places on the planet, and these photos are with me. They are not gone, and I vividly remember those locations.”

“However, here I am at another stage of my life in one of the most exclusive and pure country clubs in the country. Life is crazy.”

Cordova, MD, an assistant physician orthopedic surgeon based in Colorado, serves as a PGA Hope ambassador, helping to increase interest in golf and its healing properties for veterans who may not be aware of it. PGA Hope is the flagship military program of PGA Reach, the charitable arm of the US PGA.

The rehab program works with more than 7,500 veterans at 215 locations annually, according to PGA Hope. Congress has hosted the PGA Hope tournament since 2017 and is scheduled to run until 2037, when the Ryder Cup will be contested there for the first time.

Cordova and other ambassadors from across the country spent a week on the outskirts of the capital learning the specialized techniques needed to help veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other forms of trauma reintegrate back into their communities through the game of golf.

Like many amateur golfers, the game challenges Cordova’s ability to smooth out his reflexes from one shot to the next.

“I look back after a run and say, ‘Man, I really don’t like how I responded to this situation,’” Cordova said. in my feelings.”


An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Chris Novak is 59 years old. He is 57 years old. This version has been corrected.

Chris Nowak, a 57-year-old who served as a corporal in the Marine Corps, first hit a golf ball after having his right leg amputated in a practice accident in 1987 while teaching a course in San Antonio. Since 2017, he has been the Military and Veterans Liaison Officer at PGA Hope.

In high school, Nowak was drawn to ice hockey in part because of the rush he might get from violent crashes. He described golf as very quiet.

The injury made him feel isolated and away from the sports he loved to play. At the time, veteran services were limited, and PGA Hope did not exist.

“It was a tough transition,” Nowak said. “I didn’t have much going on in my life after I lost my leg. I always thought I was going to be an athlete and woke up one day after getting shot, and I don’t have a leg. What are you going to do?”

“I was left there alone.”

So, one afternoon, Nowak, on a whim and not being hindered by anyone with a connection to the game he had avoided in his youth, decided to go to a local training ground.

From the moment the club hit the ball, Novak remembers becoming hooked and eager to pass on the restorative benefits of the sport to other injured veterans.

“I really needed to get something in the mental space,” he said before setting out on Monday for a group that included Cordova. “I played golf one day, and I was like, ‘Wow, this works. I have to do something with it. It just clicked with me, and I knew that the healing value in this game was just what the veterans needed.”

Calm veterans can test Through golf, Jodi Alvarez, a teaching professional from the American PGA, was initially attracted to the program. The Director of Instructions at Monarch Country Club in Palm City, Florida, has been working with injured veterans for nearly 15 years.

Alvarez helped create half a dozen PGA Hope programs in South Florida. In 2019, the PGA of America awarded her the Patriot Award, awarded annually to a PGA member who goes above and beyond in a veteran’s commitment through golf.

Although not a veteran, Alvarez has family members who served in the US Navy. I also witnessed firsthand how wounded soldiers were lifted from the simple acts of swinging a stick, no matter where the ball ended, and walking along a driveway during a sunny morning, like Monday in Congress.

“When you hear a suicidal veteran who’s paralyzed from the waist down, and they’re in the middle of their swing, and they go, ‘This is a really great day, thanks for wearing this,'” Alvarez said, “and adds, ‘I haven’t felt this good in a long time. Then you do your job. “

Veterans dealing with trauma can get more information about the PGA Hope programs by going to

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