“This event saved my life” Veterans gather for therapeutic golf tournament

Veterans from all over the county have gathered right here in Eastern Iowa for a golf therapy tournament. This year marks 25 years for the National Disabled Veterans Tee Tournament at the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort.

This isn’t your average golf tournament, in this game it doesn’t matter who wins or loses. It’s about something much more.

"This event saved my life, about 9 years ago I was suffering from a heated batch of depression and anxiety and thoughts of suicide, I was offered to come out here," said Post 9/11 Army Veteran, Kenneth Thompson. 

The National Disabled Veterans Tee Tournament is an event dedicated to helping veterans cope with their disabilities, like Thompson who suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving his country. 

"This is were I found out that there is more people with situations like me, more veterans that felt the same way. I was able to create and bond with them and I knew that life had more purpose," said Thompson. 

Something Army Veteran Joshua Fry, who’s attending for the first time is also realizing.   

"Like we don’t know exactly what someone is going through but we all kind of know what we’re all going through with each other," said Fry. 

The tournament also features adaptive tools like this swing-less club by Ezee Golf. The club allows someone with disabilities to ease back into the game.  

Steve Fluke, co-founder president of Ezee Golf explained how it works, "You just need to dial the yardage in from 50 up to 225, put it behind the ball, you push a button on the handle and the striker comes out and hits the ball down the fairway and you’re out playing golf."  

The event is specifically for veterans with visual impairments, severe illnesses, or injuries.  

"If you’re down and out I always tell people you may not play golf but that white ball going through the sky will change your life, it’s not about hitting the ball it’s about finding friends," said Thompson. 

This event is much more than just a golf tournament, it also offers other adaptive sports like cycling, fishing, and kayaking. The goal is to show veterans there is life after injury. 

Tournament hosts, the Department of Veteran Affairs and Disabled American Veterans said the event wouldn’t be possible without the hundreds of volunteers and sponsors that donate. For more information on the event or how to get involved visit their website here

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