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On the heels of war, a healing opportunity during The Barclays

On the heels of war, a healing opportunity during The Barclays

EDISON, N.J. – Golf is an extraordinary tool in helping wounded heroes heal from the physical injuries of war; but it can also be a powerful platform for helping the brave men and women of our U.S. Armed Forces heal from the emotional, cognitive and social trauma sustained during combat. Estimates are that up to 30% of veterans returning home from combat suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) or depression, resulting in a startling and heart-breaking statistic: 22 veteran suicides every day.

To aid in both the physical and psychological rehabilitation of our American heroes, as well as express gratitude for their service and sacrifice, Callaway Golf has once again teamed up with Birdies for the Brave to host the Callaway Warrior Club Fitting program at 15 tournaments across the U.S. in 2015 – and no one was more appreciative than former U.S. Army Corporal and Purple Heart recipient Kevin McCloskey of Elkins Park, PA, who had an opportunity participate in one of the fittings last week during The Barclays.

McCloskey was driving in a convoy with the 506th Infantry Regiment (4th Brigade), 101st Airborne Division in Logar Province, Afghanistan, when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device (IED). McCloskey swerved to avoid it, taking the brunt of the blast, which resulted in the amputation of both legs, vision loss in his right eye, burns all over his body and TBI. A competitive athlete in high school who competed in mixed martial arts for the 101st Airborne, McCloskey found it difficult to cope after his injuries. That is, until he discovered golf.

Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR

Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR

“Most days I had trouble just getting out of bed,” said McCloskey. “It was extremely difficult adjusting to my new normal as a double-amputee. I never thought I would be able to compete in sports again until I started playing golf. Thanks to Callaway Golf and Birdies for the Brave, more veterans will have the chance to heal, re-build their self-esteem, and connect through golf. Just getting out there and being able to socialize has been life-changing. I am indebted to both of these organizations for the tremendous opportunity during The Barclays.”

McCloskey pays it forward by helping other veterans and amputees learn and re-learn golf through the Eastern Amputee Golf Association’s First Swing program.

Joining McCloskey at the Callaway Warrior Club Fitting was fellow Purple Heart recipient and former U.S. Army Master Sergeant John Cruz from Budd Lake, NJ. Cruz was deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom as an operations sergeant and explosive ordinance disposal team leader with the 741st OD Company. While on patrol in the Zormat Province, Afghanistan, MSG Cruz was operating as part of a quick reaction force directed to assist coalition troops when two grenades detonated 10 feet from him, causing shrapnel wounds to his right hand and left calf.

Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR

Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR

Cruz also expressed his gratitude for the chance to be treated like a PGA TOUR player during the fitting, saying, “This was a tremendous experience and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was very humbled to have been invited to participate, and am very appreciative to Callaway Golf and Birdies for the Brave for giving back so much to veterans and military families.”

In addition to being fitted with their own set of clubs, both heroes enjoyed a mini golf lesson, got some tips from PGA TOUR player Andres Gonzales, and had the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Callaway equipment truck, where they learned about the process involved in fitting PGA TOUR players for clubs on-site during PGA TOUR tournaments. In addition, both warriors were interviewed for special segments which aired nationally on CBS on Saturday and Sunday. Click here to view the segments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1KmgPCKM2Y