KUNA - An organization dedicated to helping those who put their lives on the line for our country through the game of golf, the Veteran Golfers Association (VGA) allows vets and their families to compete, socialize, stay active and heal, while enjoying camaraderie and competition.
VGA has been around since 2014, and this is the inaugural year for the Idaho chapter. There are about 65 members in Idaho right now; they're looking to get the word out about this nonprofit that gives vets and their family members an outlet.
Among the group is golf superstar, and the first amputee to play on a PGA Tour event, Chad Pfeifer.
"I was an airborne infantry guy," Pfeifer said. "Our unit was deployed to Iraq in 2006 and then April 12, 2007, our truck hit an IED, which resulted in the loss of my left leg above the knee."
Pfeifer says he was introduced to the game of golf while going through therapy for his injury in San Antonio, and the sport became another source of remedy.
"It was therapy for me, it allowed me to get outside when I was getting used to my prosthetic," he added.
The game provided an opportunity for him to be around other veterans.
"It kind of saved my life and if golf can help other people - which I know it has and it will continue to do so - my story can get out there and be an inspiration to others," Pfeifer told KTVB.
As a member of VGA, he aims to try to help those who served and their loved ones push through incredibly difficult times.
"A great sense of camaraderie when you're with them because you can vent to them about what's going on or what you're going through," he added. "It gives us all kind of something in common. We've all been through different stories, different avenues through the military. But we can all kind of revolve around golf."
Lucas O'Neill, an active Air Guard member and retired Air Force, started the chapter in Idaho last year.
"You can talk about your service, what you experienced overseas. Get guys out that might be isolated at home, get them out talking to other veterans, get them active again," O'Neill said, "Having an organization that can focus strictly on that and trying to get individuals involved at that level, I was sold."
The Veteran Golfers Association, Idaho State Chapter, held four tournaments this year. Nine members went on to compete in the regional championship in San Diego. Pfeifer and another member, Dorman Griffith, are heading to VGA Nationals in Biloxi, Miss., October 8 through 11, where they will be competing against veterans from all walks of life - with the common denominators of service to our country and the love of golf.
"There's a lot of people here in the veteran community that struggle with everything. The struggles are so deep and vast we could talk about them all day long: PTSD, homelessness, financial issues, whatever it might be, this one of those places where you can come out and talk to others who have been there, done that, experienced it and survived it," O'Neill told KTVB.
These veterans are overcoming adversity together, and bonding while playing a few holes.
"Facing life without sitting on the couch and facing life by themselves," O'Neill said. "Getting them back out, getting them active again, getting them to see the beautiful course, getting some fresh air, some sunlight, getting that life back in them. That's what it's about."
Active duty military, those with veteran status, and their families can join VGA. Membership is $40 a year and $10 per event, which O'Neill says goes to putting on regional and national championships. Aside from tournaments, the group organizes other events and casual golf outings. They are playing host to the 17th hole of the Albertsons Boise Open and will be decking it out in a military and law enforcement theme.
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