Veterans Find a Form of Therapy in PGA Hope Program

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SACRAMENTO -- It's the time of year when people are donning caps and gowns and accepting diplomas, but a group of local veterans participated in a different kind of graduation Friday morning.

At the Haggin Oaks golf course, veterans celebrated their last day of the PGA Hope Program.

"It's basically golf therapy for veterans," said PGA Hope participant, Andrew Hershberger.

To most, It may have looked like an average morning on the golf course but to these veterans, each swing is part of their graduation ceremony from the program.

"It's a very basic program designed for veterans who have never played, getting back to golf because of injury, getting into golf," explained Bob Epperly, northern California PGA Hope lead instructor.

The program partners PGA pros with local veterans, giving them golf lessons at Haggin Oaks for free.

"We had the putting, pitching, driving, just anything you could do -- even getting out of a sand trap. Any golf skills you would need they teach here," Hershberger said.

But they're not just learning to improve their putt, these veterans will walk away with valuable life skills as well.

"Just being present when our minds might be racing throughout the day, just to enjoy your time out here and take a moment and reset," Hershberger stated.

Hershberger says golfing helps him practice mindfulness and relaxation. And meeting other veterans in the process is an added bonus.

"You're always looking for that camaraderie. That's what you had in the military and it's just a natural draw for veterans to come together, support each other,” he said.

"Big crowds aren't comfortable. Being around people's not comfortable. They come out and find they're able to be part of an activity with their brothers and sisters. It's a life-changing experience," Epperly added.

PGA Hope puts on about 10 sessions of the golf program every year.

Some of the veterans have gone on to join other golf clubs and even play in competitive tournaments.

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