Golf courses are back open, which means the Veteran Golfers Association season has officially re-started. The VGA is focused on serving veterans and their families, making their lives better through golf.
"We want to make sure they’re out interacting with each other, enjoying the game, getting some fresh air and just genuinely being healthy," said Kevin Frey, the North Regional VGA Director and an Air Force Veteran.
When he was looking up golf organizations, he stumbled across the VGA and thought it was a perfect fit.
"Often times, veterans when left to their own devices kind of stay sheltered like they don’t really interact with people so an organization that encourages them to get outside meet people and enjoy the camaraderie of competition, something that all veterans say is a big part of military life, was very attractive," said Frey.
Since the VGA has been operational, for the last 5-6 years, "most of our positive feedback from veterans was that they were able to get out and meet new people and find an outlet for any struggles they may have been having at home."
Something that was put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The VGA knew they needed to do something to keep their members engaged, so they decided to have a virtual tour. They worked with Top Golf which owns the World Golf Tour, an online golf game.
"It just keeps that connection with our members. Right? Just shows them despite being locked up or locked in their house there’s still connection out there and even though we had to wait to come back to the course we’re still working towards keeping them connected," Frey explained.
They had a competition weekly during the peak of the pandemic and the shutdowns. Each week they'd play at a different virtual course and then have a championship game, which Frey said about a thousand members would join in to watch each week.
"It’s a way to bring us all together and it’s something like the regular tour. It's fun," said Tim Robinson, a 27-year Army Veteran. "When we can get together and chat and banter, there’s nothing like it."
He made it to the virtual championship twice, winning once. He enjoyed playing with his buddies online but was excited to get back to the actual course.
"I’ve been with the VGA since the beginning. It’s my sixth year and it definitely won’t be my last," said Robinson.
When Robinson retired from the military, he became a civilian worker in the army.
"I still get that military environment everyday but there’s guys and gals that have found the VGA that don’t live near military or don’t have a government job and this is the way they can get that feeling back again," he said.
For Robinson, he plans on continuing to play the game he loves, making new friends and hopefully winning the coveted red blazer one day. The winner of their real championship each year gets a red blazer, like how the pros get a green one.
This year because of the pandemic, they're only having local, state and possibly regional tournaments, but not their typical national championship. Hopefully they will next year.
In the meantime, Frey said he's just going to keep working to make sure the VGA stays around and continues to grow.
"I get to organize events that I genuinely believe are making veterans lives better. It’s not just veterans though it’s their family members," said Frey.
If you have a relative who's a veteran, you could qualify to be part of the VGA. For more information, click here.