Veterans group seeks to build golf course

By Al TaysMarch 14, 2015, 8:10 am

There isn’t much evidence left that this land once was a golf course. Just some weatherbeaten stone tee markers rising from the weeds like miniature monoliths, and patches of pavement that used to be cart paths. But if Tom Underdown has his way, Bermuda grass will again grow here, as neatly trimmed as the haircuts of the men who hope to call this place home.

Underdown, 64, is no developer, and his vision is of no ordinary golf club. The Warrior Golf Club would be the home of the Orlando, Fla., chapter of Fairways for Warriors, a nonprofit organization founded by Underdown, both of whose parents served in the military, to help wounded veterans and their families. 

Fairways for Warriors holds outings, tournaments and clinics at several courses in the Orlando area. But it has to shoehorn its activities into their schedules, which, especially during Florida’s snowbird season, are often full. “We can’t always do all the things we want to do or need to do for our soldiers and their families,” Underdown said.

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“Having our own place, we could have our guys going there every single day.”

Fairways for Warriors is in negotiations to lease part of the former Meadow Woods Golf Course, which is currently owned by a church. Underdown envisions a driving range, a nine-hole course, a three-hole practice area, a short-game area and a clubhouse.

The facility is eight miles from a Veterans Affairs medical center which is scheduled to open this year. Underdown said veterans would be able to get from the VA center to the Fairways for Warriors facility via a light-rail system.

“We can provide jobs for these guys,” Underdown said. “We’ve got so many guys who are 100 percent disabled, sitting home every day - they could go to the Warrior Golf Club, they could volunteer for a couple of hours, they could hang out. The quality of life for them and their family would just escalate so much. We want to have seminars, activities, events at the clubhouse. We want to have a workout room, we want to have a library, a coffee shop. [It would be] so much more than just a golf clubhouse.”  

Underdown said Hilton Grande Vacations “has stepped up to be our major sponsor,” and he hopes to get assistance from the PGA of America, but Fairways for Warriors needs more financial help. “We need $1.2 million for the clubhouse, about $1.5 [million] to redo the greens and fairways. We need more donations.” Once the facility is up and running, Underdown estimates, green fees and other golf-related revenues would make it self-sufficient.

For most golfers, the opportunity to play on any given day is a luxury. For wounded veterans, it can be much more.

Many veterans who went into the military as teenagers find themselves exiting to a civilian life they have never experienced as an adult. The most mundane activities can be furiously frustrating.

Fairways for Warriors member Eric Napier smiles when he’s asked about a scene in the Oscar-winning movie “The Hurt Locker.” The main character, a bomb-disposal expert, is back home in the U.S. and standing in the cereal aisle of a grocery store. The camera pans over dozens of cereal choices, then focuses on actor Jeremy Renner’s face, which registers – depending on your interpretation – frustration, disgust, anger, confusion. Renner’s character ends up returning to Iraq and his insanely dangerous job, which he prefers to the mundaneness of civilian life.


Fairways for Warriors members Eric Napier (l), Steve Allberry

“I told people about that,” said Napier, who spent nearly eight years in the Army and was deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Senegal. “I came home and was really stressed out from the minutia of everyday life. Some people didn’t get it. They said it’s nothing compared to what you’ve been through. I said it’s the fact that there’s so much drama over so little that’s so stressful.

“When we’re over there working, we really have a handful of priorities. They’re life-and-death priorities, but I’ve got a handful and I can check them off. When I get home, I have an armload of priorities that don’t matter whether they get done or not, but the world we’ve built around ourselves, it’s life and death if I don’t get to the dry cleaners and pay that cellphone bill.

“It’s easy to get frustrated – ‘Why am I so upset over things that hold so little importance in my life and my family’s lives?’”

Frustration too often leads veterans to an irrevocable decision – to commit suicide.

Every member of Fairways for Warriors can recite this key statistic from a 2012 report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - every day, 22 veterans commit suicide.

Talking to Fairways for Warriors members, it’s rare to find one who hasn’t experienced suicidal feelings or known someone who has committed suicide. Underdown remembers a veteran who called him after learning about Fairways for Warriors, and wanted to join the group. “He was going to come out on a Saturday,” Underdown said. “The Monday before, he committed suicide.” Underdown can’t help but wonder if immediate access to a Fairways for Warriors club facility might have saved that veteran’s life.

Although it seems logical that once military men and women escape a war zone alive and return to their loved ones, their lives should improve, the sobering truth is that they still face life-threatening danger.

On the urban battlefield, the enemy hid in plain sight. Virtually any place, any person, might be concealing a bomb. Back in the United States, many of the veterans themselves have become time bombs, with potential detonators in their own minds and bodies: depression, pain, nightmares, rage, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The substances they often use to dull their pain – alcohol and drugs – become detonators as well.

A more effective treatment can simply be finding something to do and someone to talk to who understands what you’re going through. Through the vehicle of golf, Fairways for Warriors provides these two things.

“I was in a real bad place a little over a year ago,” said Fairways for Warriors member Steve Allberry, an Army veteran.  “Once I got connected with Fairways, I sold my house and moved over here to be closer. This organization is one of the best things that’s ever happened. I can’t wait -I sit around the house looking at the clock wondering when’s my next tee time with Fairways. I’m ready to get out. Everybody in Fairways is my family. I’ll do anything for them because I know they’d do anything for me.”

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.