PGA Tour Charities Supports U.S. Troops Through Birdies for the Brave

PGA TOUR Charities Supports U.S. Troops Through Birdies for the BravePGA Tour veteran and Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) spokesman Frank Lickliter II glanced down the fairway toward the famed 17th Island Green at TPC Sawgrass in September and sighed heavily.

Normally, a golf swing would not take this much out of him; after all, he’d played this hallowed course many times during THE PLAYERS Championship, one of the TOUR’s pinnacle events, and had swung a golf club a million times in his career. But this time, decked out in body armor and wearing a Kevlar helmet, it was diffcult just to lift the club off the ground, let alone hope for anything near par.

Lickliter was participating in a charity golf tournament benefting WWP and fve other military homefront groups as part of PGA Tour Charities’ Birdies for the Brave military outreach program (www.pgatour.com/birdiesforthebrave). All of the participants wore military gear for one hole in an effort to gain insight into what combat soldiers deal with every day on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

PGA TOUR Charities Supports U.S. Troops Through Birdies for the Brave“It really makes you think about the challenges our troops face every day,” said Lickliter. “We owe the courageous men and women of our U.S. Armed Forces an enormous debt of gratitude for the innumerable sacrifces they make in service to our country.”

PGA Tour Community Outreach Manager Dan Nevins, who orchestrated the event, knows a thing or two about both sacrifce and service to our country. Awarded the Army Commendation for exceptional combat service and the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in the line of duty, Nevins was deployed to Balad, Iraq, as a Staff Sergeant in the National Guard after completing an eight-year enlistment stationed in Germany.

Nine months later, on Nov. 10, 2004, he was on a pre-dawn patrol when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated beneath the Humvee in which he was a passenger. The explosion killed the driver, Nevins’ best friend, and severely wounded Nevins. As a result of his injuries, Nevins’ left leg was amputated below the knee, and his right leg was badly damaged – requiring more than 27 surgeries.

He spent 18 months recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Washington, DC, where a visit by PGA Tour players Davis Love III and Jerry Kelly inspired Nevins’ therapist to begin using golf as a tool for helping him regain balance, stability and core strength. Nevins, who had only played golf a few times many years before, became passionate about the game, often leaving the hospital to hit balls at Olney Golf Park. “Golf was my salvation, my escape, and was critical to my emotional and physical recovery,” he says.

PGA TOUR Charities Supports U.S. Troops Through Birdies for the Brave

Around the same time, the PGA Tour was expanding Birdies for the Brave, a program that has raised more than $2.5 million during the past three years for six military homefront groups supported by Tour players. During a visit with soldiers at Walter Reed in 2005, PGA Tour Golf Course Properties President David Pillsbury met Nevins and invited him to play in a charity golf tournament hosted by WWP.

Impressed by Nevins’ positive attitude and infectious personality, Pillsbury offered him a job spearheading Birdies for the Brave. Nevins jumped at the chance to help give back to the game that has meant so much to him, and to support the thousands of fellow soldiers and their families who have sacrifced so much on behalf of our country.

“I feel honored to represent an organization that provides such signifcant support for military homefront groups,” said Nevins. “I am in the unique position of knowing what a tremendous impact these groups have on the morale, rehabilitation, and recovery of soldiers returning with 28 serious disabilities.”

Unfortunately, eight months ago a bone infection in Nevins’ right leg necessitated its amputation as well. Nevins spent another six months recovering back at Walter Reed, where his positive attitude helped him once again make a remarkable recovery. Fitted with a second prosthetic and more determined than ever, Nevins is back at the Tour touching the lives of thousands of wounded soldiers on behalf of Birdies for the Brave, and inspiring everyone he meets with his extraordinary story of perseverance.

 

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