SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Two combat-wounded veterans were shown some greatly-deserved appreciation this week during the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio, when they had the opportunity to participate in Birdies for the Brave’s Callaway Warrior Club Fitting Program. One of more than 15 fittings scheduled to take place during TOUR tournaments in 2015 thanks to the generosity of Callaway Golf, the event provided the opportunity for these two American heroes to be fitted with their own custom set of Callaway Golf clubs, take a tour of the Callaway truck where clubs are fitted for TOUR players on-site, and participate in a mini lesson on the practice facility.
The experience proved to be extremely memorable for both participants – helping them escape from the memories of war and focus on the task at hand, according to Josh Stein, a double amputee and Purple Heart recipient from Spring Brach, TX.
“I can’t thank Callaway Golf and Birdies for the Brave enough for this opportunity,” said Stein. “I was introduced to golf by my dad in high school, but it has taken on a whole new meaning following my combat injuries…helping me to stay calm, relax, and take my mind off things. I am now completely obsessed with Callaway and plan on continuing to hone my skills and teaching my daughters to play.”
Stein was left a double amputee with severe arm injuries from an IED explosion in Taji, Iraq in 2006. A member of the U.S. Army, Stein was the driver of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle that hit an improvised explosive device (IED) during a patrol mission, which tore through the vehicle’s engine and then through his legs, causing immediate amputations and breaking both of his arms. He managed to control the vehicle with his two broken arms, open the rear hatch of the vehicle to allow his team to exit, and open his own hatch as well. Once his hatched had been opened, Stein fell unconscious to the ground, and he was subsequently airlifted to safety.
He woke up one month later in Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, where he learned of the severity of his injuries and began to focus on his recovery. Stein uses both a wheelchair and prosthetics to move around, and enjoys spending time with his wife, Nikki, and four young daughters ages three to 11 – all of whom are learning to play golf.
“Golf is an extraordinary way for wounded service members to heal from the physical and psychological wounds of war, as well as a great coping mechanism as they reintegrate into civilian life,” says Callaway Golf Company Vice President of Sports Marketing Nick Raffaele, who attended the fitting at TPC San Antonio. “We are honored to work in partnership with the PGA TOUR and Birdies for the Brave to express our sincere gratitude and give something back to these courageous American heroes, who have sacrificed so much to help keep America safe and free.”
Selma, TX native Matthew Castillo del Muro also raved about his Callaway Warrior Club Fitting experience during the Valero Texas Open. In 2010, Castillo del Muro was the lead man on an overnight patrol at a blast site in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he and his team were tasked with clearing the area for possible explosives by using a metal detector. Castillo del Muro got a hit on the detector and got down on his stomach to carefully scrape the dirt away and inspect the area where the metal detector hit when he brushed against an active landmine. The blast pushed him onto his back and he went into shock. His team had him airlifted to the hospital at Kandahar, where he learned that the landmine was attached to an improved explosive device (IED) – which by some miracle did not go off. Had the IED been activated, Castillo del Muro would have lost multiple limbs. He began playing golf during his recovery at Walter Reed and credits the game of golf with his speedy recovery. Castillo del Muro is a stay-at-home dad and enjoys spending time with his children.
The Callaway Warrior Club Fitting program is just one of many military outreach initiatives that are part of Birdies for the Brave, a military outreach initiative dedicated to honoring and showing appreciation to the courageous members of our U.S. Armed Forces and their families. Named in 2012 by the White House one of the top 20 charities that support military families, Birdies for the Brave was created in 2006 by PGA TOUR player Phil Mickelson and his wife, Amy, to support combat-wounded veterans. The PGA TOUR subsequently adopted Birdies for the Brave, and expanded it to include a wide variety of military outreach and appreciation efforts during PGA TOUR tournaments, as well as fundraising events conducted at the TOUR’s TPC Network of clubs – an effort that has raised more than $13 million for 11 military homefront groups that are supported by TOUR players.
To learn more or make a donation, visit www.birdiesforthebrave.org.