The John Deere Classic golfers slowly started to trickle into TPC Deere Run on Monday. There was also a unique event on the driving range for the first time in the course’s 20-year history.
For the past seven years, Calloway has teamed up with the Birdies for the Brave initiative to help out wounded service members. On Monday, their Warrior Club Fitting program came to TPC Deere Run for the first time, providing more than just a new set of sticks to a couple Purple Heart recipients.
“After my injuries, I got lost in life and it was kind of the game of golf that kind of got me back on path,” U.S. Army veteran Phil Bell said.
“By thinking about golf and trying to focus on golf, it takes my mind away from a place where it shouldn’t be,” U.S. Army veteran Michael Jaborek said.
Golf has different meanings for different people.
For Bell and Jaborek, the game is threaputic.
“Being relaxed and having a good time, helps with, I also have PTS, so it really helps calm the nerves and being out with friends, being outside instead of being couped up inside, dwelling on the other things,” Jaborek said.
Bell added: “When I’m not golfing, I have a tendency of thinking about a lot that happened in Iraq and stuff like that. When I come out here, you’re amongst nature. It relaxes you, calming, and gets you a little bit of exercise.”
But playing with combat injuries presents its own set of challenges.
“I mean I could wake up one day and feel great and then the other days feel super stiff,” Jaborek said.
“The clubs I had before didn’t seem like they were a fit for me any longer,” Bell said.
That’s where Calloway’s Warrior Club Fitting and the Birdies for the Brave program tries to help, selecting 30 wounded service members at PGA Tour events around the country, including Bell and Jaborek at TPC Deere Run.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re active, retired, reserve or veteran status,” said Nichole Trinh of Birdies for the Brave. “We just want everyone to have the opportunity for a custom set of golf clubs to kind of get that relief.”
New equipment and added motivation for life after the battlefield.
“Getting fitted will help improve my game as well as my life,” Bell said.
Even if the birdies are still hard to come by.
“I won’t be able to blame my clubs, so I’m gonna have to figure out something new to blame,” Jaborek said. “But we will see how that goes.”
Both Bell and Jaborek say it felt like winning the lottery when they were selected. Now as of this week, the program has provided around 150 veterans with custom equipment since 2012.