As golfers fine-tuned their games at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club on the final practice day at the TOUR Championship, a 10-time PGA TOUR champion took some time out to help two local wounded heroes work on their own golf swings, as part of the Callaway Warrior Club Fitting Program. Conducted in partnership with the TOUR’s Birdies for the Brave military outreach initiative, the program is designed to aid in the rehabilitation process and express appreciation for wounded veterans’ service and sacrifice by providing them with the opportunity to be fit with their own set of custom golf clubs during a PGA TOUR tournament. The fitting at East Lake represented the fifth year in a row the TOUR Championship has hosted one of the fittings.
TOUR player participation made the experience extra special for the two wounded heroes, both of whom were injured in Iraq. U.S. Air Force F-16 weapons specialist Joshua Ray suffered multiple injuries during tours of duty as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, resulting in extensive back and knee surgery. He also suffers from PTSD, and began playing golf as a way to relax and heal from his physical and emotional wounds of war. After receiving an honorable medical discharge, Ray attended the University of Wisconsin, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in golf course management.
Joining Ray in the fitting was U.S. Marine Corps combat engineer Kevin Blanchard. On June 30, 2005, Blanchard was on patrol with the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, 4th Marine Division, when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) – causing the amputation of his left leg and severe damage to his right leg. He spent the next 13 months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he underwent 30 surgeries. Following his recovery and medical retirement in 2006 with a Purple Heart, Blanchard received his bachelor’s degree in international business from George Washington University and a master’s in science degree in the science of management from Catholic University. He has worked for many veteran service organizations helping other veterans successfully transition to civilian life, and is the co-founder of a non-profit organization that helps veterans gain employment in the medical technology industry.
The event was one of 15 Callaway Warrior Club Fittings to be held in 2016. In all, more than 120 veterans have received custom clubs through participation in the fittings since the program was launched in 2012. Like the PGA TOUR, Callaway Golf is passionate about supporting our military. “Callaway has contributed over $8 million to various military support causes,” said Callaway Golf President & CEO Chip Brewer, “I’m particularly proud that the company’s military appreciation programs, such as the Callaway Warrior Club Fittings in partnership with Birdies for the Brave, have been longstanding commitments.”
For more information about Birdies for the Brave and the PGA TOUR players who support it, or to make a donation, please visit www.birdiesforthebrave.org. For more information about Callaway Golf, visit www.CallawayGolf.com.