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Golfing for good

NWS Veterans golfing 1 KA 8-29-12
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WOLCOTT, Colorado – Golf is a left-handed game, so it should surprise no one that Derek Goodridge drained a 40 footer to win the putting contest at this summer’s Vail Veterans Program.

Goodridge, 24, is missing most of his right arm, a casualty of a bomb planted in Afghanistan where he was serving in the Marine Corps. He’s one of nine Wounded Warriors in town for the Vail Veterans Program’s inaugural golf outing. This one is at Red Sky Ranch and the Vail Golf Club, and it’s for military personnel who have been severely injured serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

They get away from military hospitals and rehabilitation centers, they get to hang out and play golf with their buddies.

They get to learn the difference between a good golf course and a great golf course, which, Texas author Dan Jenkins says, is that at a great golf course the kid in the beverage cart never gets more than four holes away from you.

Red Sky Ranch, they now know, is a great golf course in that and so many other ways.

Tim Johannsen is on his third trip to the valley for the Vail Veterans Program, three summer and one winter.

“This is an incredible program,” Johannsen said.

Johannsen is a double amputee after he was hit in Iraq in 2007. You don’t notice most of the time and neither does he. He puts his shoes on one foot at a time and you don’t pay that much attention until he takes off his leg to do it.

Daniel Gasca was taking a pull from an adult beverage after Wednesday’s round at Red Sky Ranch. He loves the program, loves golf and loves being here.

“You do things you never thought you could do,” Gasca said.

Red Sky Ranch is what golfers call “challenging.” Gasca, Johannsen and most of the others got their quota of golf swings.

“Man, what a great day!” Gasca said.

Larry Rinker is Red Sky’s director of instruction. He did a short game clinic because if you want to cut your score, and you do, that’s where you start.

“I played tournament golf for a living and now I teach golf, not really living in the real world,” Rinker said. “Anything I can do for these guys, I’m proud to do it.”

Cheryl Jensen and her crew have been running the Vail Veterans Program since 2004, starting as a ski trip to Vail. They added a summer session a few years back, and now a golf outing.

The Wounded Warriors played Red Sky Ranch Wednesday and Thursday, and Vail on Friday.

“When the Vail Veterans Program asked if I would support hosting a golf event at Red Sky benefiting our wounded warriors I immediately embraced the idea,” said Jeff Hanson, director of golf at Red Sky Golf Club. “It’s a chance to share my passion for golf with these wonderful veterans by playing with and teaching them for two days.”

The Red Sky members liked the idea, retail vendors jumped on board with donations and that was that.

“I could not think of a better way to enhance the life long therapeutic game of golf to the people who have fought for our country,” Hanson said.

The Wounded Warriors play golf for the same reasons the rest of us do: It’s fun, they get away from life its own self and they get to hang out with their buddies.

“Golf has become part of physical rehabilitation in our military hospitals to improve mental and physical health. Golf’s benefits include stress relief as well as it improves coordination and strength. Golf is also something wounded veterans can do now and forever,” Jensen said.

The trips to Vail don’t cost the veterans or their families a dime, but they’re not free. Jensen is always looking for donations and volunteers.

“We’ll continue as long as there’s a need,” Jensen said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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