On Jan. 14, 1971, LPGA professionals Renee Powell and Mary Lou Daniel, and golf trick-shot artist Jimmy Nichols traveled as part of the USO Tour to Vietnam.
While there, the group held five golf clinics a day for three weeks to a string of firebases. They taught active personnel about golf while creating an escape from their surroundings, if only for a moment.
Forty years later, two of the soldiers at these clinics found and reached out to Powell, thanking her for visiting. As she told PGA.com, “I was so moved, and to realize 40 years later when these guys thanked me for going to ‘Nam, I could tell it meant so much for them.”
Powell knew at that moment she wanted to do more to support veterans, and the biggest area of need quickly became obvious.
Support for Service Women
Many of the VFW halls, veteran support groups and recreational programs are male dominated, and women veterans struggle to fit in and find acceptance. Powell discovered a lack of opportunities for service women to find support and connect with the sisters in arms who understand them best.
To answer this need, Powell launched a five-week golf program at Clearview Golf Club with support from ClubCorp. When word got out of what she was doing, support quickly came from the Northern Ohio PGA and Steve Carter, PGA, director of golf at Firestone Country Club, who offered to host the first program event at Firestone.
Today, the program goes by Clearview H.O.P.E. (Help Our Patriots Out) and holds a 5-week program for new golfers every season, as well as a 3- and 9-hole women’s golf league. Through the V.A., it welcomes women veterans from all eras and branches of the military, regardless of disability. In addition, the program also hosts family picnics and get-togethers throughout the off season.
While rooted in golf, the program has become so much more. Powell reflects on how empowered one disabled woman veteran felt after hitting a golf ball for the first time. And, she remembers the praise one veteran’s mother offered her for giving her daughter, who has traumatic brain injury, a true support system.
“It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” said Powell. “Often I hear from women veterans that they feel forgotten and alone because they do not have a support system of those who understand them, of those going through the same experiences.”
“My mission with this program is to get the word out about these heroes, and to encourage others throughout the country to get active and find opportunities to support both our men and women veterans,” said Powell.
Her counterpart on the Vietnam trip, Mary Lou Daniel, is in the process of starting her own Clearview H.O.P.E. chapter in Dallas.
By: Keith Moehring, PR 20/20