PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Birdies for the Brave showed its gratitude to Purple Heart recipients, Jason Ellis and Derek Austin, on Monday, March 7 by inviting them to participate in the Callaway Warrior Club Fitting Program on the practice facility at Innisbrook Resort & Club during the 2016 Valspar Championship.
Through the generosity of Callaway Golf, both participants were fitted for their own custom set of Callaway Golf clubs, enjoyed a meet and greet with PGA TOUR player Andres Gonzalez, and took 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. One of more than 15 Callaway-sponsored fittings scheduled to take place at PGA TOUR tournaments in 2016 as part of the Birdies for the Brave military outreach initiative, the event is designed to aid in the rehabilitation process while showing gratitude for the service and sacrifice of these two American heroes.
Air Force Staff Sergeant Jason Ellis from Riverview, Fla., a former command and control post technician, was injured in 2003 when his convoy hit a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The blast resulted in severe injuries to his legs rendering him impaired from the waist down. SSG Ellis adapted to his injuries and continues to be an active athlete, he annually participates in several sporting competitions along with U.S. Olympic/Paralympic sanctioned sporting events. He currently plays wheelchair basketball in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) and on the USA Paralympic Shooting Developmental Team.
Joining SSG Ellis in the fitting was Army Sergeant Derek Austin from Safety Harbor, Fla. SGT Austin was serving as a Team Leader for the 401st Military Police Company when his unit was ambushed in the Nerkh Valley of Afghanistan. The blast from the rocket propelled grenade caused serious injuries to his left shoulder and a concussion, which was followed by enemy small arms fire. The unit retaliated and gained fire superiority causing the enemy to break contact and retreat. Once the unit returned to base to seek medical treatment, SGT Austin was medically evacuated. He continued to redeploy and work with medical doctors for four years before being honorably discharged and awarded the Purple Heart.
“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. “We are honored to work in partnership with 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.”
For more information about the Callaway Warrior Club Fitting program, please visit www.birdiesforthebrave.org/callawaywarriorclubfittings/. For more information about Birdies for the Brave – now celebrating its 10th anniversary, please visit www.birdiesforthebrave.org.