A pair of veterans, each of whom lost a leg in Iraq, will play nine holes with New England Patriots linebacker Larry Izzo on June 22, the first day of the 54-hole event at the Nashawtuc Country Club. On that day, active duty military and veterans will receive free admission.
Working with the Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project, which provides free sports programs for severely wounded service members from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the tournament will host several events for injured veterans.
Six wounded veterans from around New England will take part in a golf clinic in which two injured vets will instruct them on playing despite their injuries. Champions Tour pros Larry Nelson and Ed Dougherty, both Vietnam veterans, will present them with specialized golf equipment to assist their rehabilitation.
'I was lucky enough to make it through Vietnam and everything,' said Dougherty, who won once on the PGA Tour and twice on the over-50 circuit. 'This program, I am honored. Anything I can, I will do for them. They are true heroes and I take my hat off to them and I am looking forward to meeting them.'
Wounded veterans Dan Nevins and Sean Lewis will play with Nelson in the pro-am and with Izzo on the Friday of tournament week. They will tee off on the back nine and follow the last group of tour professionals into the clubhouse.
'Anything is helpful that will get you back into a normal way of life,' Nelson said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters. 'We always used the term 'back in the world' when we were over there. It was such a different place.'
Izzo, whose father was a West Point graduate and army colonel, visited U.S. troops in Iraq in 2005 and promised to help the soldiers and their families.
'It will be an honor for me to go out and play with these wounded warriors,' Izzo said. 'Any time I've had an opportunity to meet the soldiers that have been over there sacrificing, I tell them they're the true patriots.'
Nevins and Lewis each lost a leg while serving in Iraq. Nevins has undergone about two dozen operations on his remaining leg.
'They are very, very accomplished golfers, and they will surprise a few people with their play,' said Kirk Bauer, the head of Disabled Sports USA.
Bauer lost a leg to a hand grenade in Vietnam and said playing sports 'was absolutely critical' to his recovery. With Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project, he helps provide training and equipment in 18 sports to veterans with virtually any injury.
'It was all trial and error then,' he said. 'There was nothing close to the type of sports equipment available then that's available now.'
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