LA QUINTA, Calif. – Callaway Golf joined with Birdies for the Brave this week to honor two local Purple Heart recipients by hosting the first of 15 Callaway Warrior Club Fittings to be held in 2016. Conducted during the PGA TOUR’s CareerBuilder Challenge on the TPC Stadium Course at PGA WEST in La Quinta, Calif., the event offered these two American heroes the opportunity to be fitted with their own set of custom golf clubs on the practice facility and take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Callaway Equipment Truck, where TOUR players are fitted on-site during tournaments. The program is designed to aid in the rehabilitation process while expressing gratitude to the courageous members of our U.S. Armed Forces for their service and sacrifice. The golf clubs will be presented to both heroes on Saturday during a military appreciation ceremony hosted by PGA TOUR player and Birdies for the Brave founder Phil Mickelson at 4 p.m. on the 18th green of the TPC Stadium Course.
“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 name, Callaway Golf’s Kirby Pert. “We are honored to work in partnership with the PGA TOUR and Birdies for the Brave to express our sincere appreciation and give something back to those who do so much to keep America safe and free.”
Both warriors were very appreciative for the opportunity to emulate what it’s like to be a professional golfer on the PGA TOUR – including Army Sergeant First Class Jacque Keeslar from Fallbrook, Calif. While on a mission to eliminate a local terrorist cell in Al Anbar Province on June 27, 2006, Keeslar was 30 days from the completion of his 12-month tour of duty in Iraq when he was severely injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) which detonated directly underneath his Stryker, pinning him in the vehicle’s gun station and crushing his legs. After an initial evacuation by Blackhawk helicopter to an Army field hospital, SFC Keeslar awoke in Walter Reed Army Medical Center to find that both legs had been amputated. He recently earned a degree in golf management and resides in a specially-adapted home in Fallbrook with his wife and caregiver, Vanessa, whom he met as a high school freshman.
Joining SFC Keeslar in the fitting was U.S. Marine Corps First Lieutenant Brian Donarski from Gilbert, Ariz. While deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005, Donarski was seriously wounded when his vehicle hit an IED while pulling 7,200 gallons of jet fuel during combat operations. The roadside bomb caused a stable burst fracture in his neck, bulging disks in his back, vision loss in his right eye, tearing of the left bicep, hairline cracks in all of his teeth, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Donarski spent more than a year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center recovering and rehabilitating from his injuries before being reassigned to a Special Forces Unit and being deployed back to Afghanistan. Shortly after, Donarski’s PTSD was triggered and Donarski spent 11 months at Richmond Poly-Trauma Center learning to cope with the invisible injury. Medically unable to return to combat, Donarski was medically discharged. He currently works for Challenge America, an organization that provides assistance to returning combat veterans.
Now celebrating its 10-year anniversary, Birdies for the Brave includes a variety of military outreach and appreciation activities during more than 60 PGA TOUR, PGA TOUR Champions and Web.com Tour tournaments annually – including the Callaway Warrior Club Fitting program, as well as a series of fundraising events at TPCs and partner clubs across the U.S. With Mickelson’s support, as well as that of 20 other TOUR players, corporate sponsors and TPC members, during the past 10 years Birdies for the Brave has raised more than $15 million for non-profit military homefront organizations; facilitated 50 home donations to wounded heroes and their families; awarded hundreds of college scholarships to the children of fallen heroes; and distributed complimentary tournament tickets to military members, veterans and their families, including during the CareerBuilder Challenge – with thousands of military guests expected to attend during throughout the week as guests of CareerBuilder and the Clinton Foundation through the tournament’s host charity, Desert Classic Charities. While at the tournament, military guests will enjoy complimentary food and beverages in the Birdies for the Brave Patriots’ Outpost military-exclusive hospitality chalet sponsored by CareerBuilder.
To learn more about Birdies for the Brave and the many fundraising and promotional activities taking place in 2016 to celebrate the program’s 10-year anniversary, please visit www.birdiesforthebrave.org. For information about the Callaway Warrior Club Fitting program and find a list of upcoming events, please visit www.birdiesforthebrave.org/callawaywarriorclubfittings. For tickets and information about the CareerBuilder Challenge January 18-24 at PGA WEST, visit www.careerbuilderchallenge.com.