The Veteran Golfers Association (VGA) announced recently that it will host 80 of the country’s top military veteran golfers at the 2015 VGA National Champion-ship this Veterans Day at Pinehurst No. 2.
The national championship comes on the heels of a series of qualifying events, where more than 600 veterans from across the country competed to earn their spots in the tournament.
This year’s lineup boasts an elite group of athletes who have taken the passion and determination behind their military service to the golf course. Wounded veterans make up nearly half the field, and more than a dozen competitors have received Purple Hearts.
VGA golfer Sergeant Andrew Smith developed a passion for golf after returning home from Afghanistan, where he stepped on a pressure plate IED and lost both his legs.
Smith first tried to qualify for the VGA Championship in North Carolina, but missed the cut by 10 strokes. Despite this setback, Smith remained determined to make it to Pinehurst. He tried once again in Florida a few days later, where he was only eight strokes short of qualifying.
Smith’s passion did not go unnoticed. When a member of the Pinehurst Country Club heard Smith’s story, he offered to fly Smith to Connecticut for free, where he could try to qualify for the championship once more. Smith's tenacity paid off when he sank a 20-foot birdie putt to earn the right to advance to Pinehurst.
“Qualifying for the 2015 VGA National Championship is one of my proudest moments and biggest accomplishments,” said Smith. “Since serving in Afghanistan, golf has helped me immensely on the road to recovery. Playing has helped me to stay active and form new, lifelong friendships with my fellow soldiers.”
Joshua Peyton, VGA president and a retired Army Captain and Army Ranger, established the organization with veterans like Smith in mind.
“The Veteran Golfers Association was founded last year to provide veterans across the country with the ultimate golfing experience,” said Peyton. “We are bridging the gap between soldiers’ passion for serving their country and their passion for the game of golf. The VGA is the only organization nationwide to offer all veterans — wounded and non-wounded, active and retired — the opportunity to compete, socialize and stay active through golf.”
Sponsors for the event include the Armed Forces Foundation, Druh Belts & Buckles, Schneider Electric, Southern Pines Brewing Company, UPS and Wilson, among others.
The championship is scheduled to be held Sunday, Nov. 8, through Wednesday, Nov. 11.
For more information: www.vgachampionship.org.