Story Credit | Ann Miller – Honolulu Star Advertiser
If it is September, it must be time to stop on the golf course and remember someone — everyone — in the military who has sacrificed while serving. Especially in Hawaii.
More than 30 courses on all the major islands are participating next month in what started in 2007 as Patriot Golf Day over Labor Day weekend. Almost $47 million in national donations later, it has become a September to remember for the joint initiative started by PGA of America and the U.S. Golf Association.
The money goes to Folds of Honor and provides post-secondary educational scholarships for children and spouses of military service men and women killed or disabled.
In the past three years, scholarships have gone to 53 Hawaii-based military families.
“Actually,” says Ko Olina GM/Director of Golf Greg Nichols, who is in charge of the Aloha Section PGA program, “Hawaii scholarships have probably been awarded in excess of what we have raised, which is pretty cool.”
Aloha Section’s goal is to raise $30,000 next month, with a variety of fundraisers including tournaments, par-3 contests and raffles. Many courses are encouraging a per-round donation and offering special discounted rates for the military families.
This year, Folds of Honor Foundation founder Dan Rooney — a PGA Professional and F-16 fighter pilot in the Oklahoma Air National Guard — came up with a “challenge coin concept” to enhance donations. It is pilot tradition to present a challenge coin to fellow pilots. If the other pilot doesn’t have their challenge coin, they buy drinks.
About 12 Hawaii courses and Golftec Honolulu will sell Custom Collectible Challenge Coin Ball Markers for approximately $12. Some have their course logos on one side, some the Aloha Section PGA logo. All have the Folds of Honor folded flag logo on the other.
“The most important thing that the Folds of Honor does besides awarding educational scholarships,” says Nichols, who grew up a military brat, “is to ensure that the military families that have either had a loved one injured or killed in service to their country are not forgotten. Let them know that the country cares about them. That aspect is often overlooked, but is so important.
“We can never thank our military servicemen and women and their dependents enough for their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifices for the freedoms we all get to enjoy.”
Next year, the Aloha Section will also focus on kicking off the local version of HOPE (Helping our Patriots Everywhere). It was started two years ago by PGA REACH, the PGA of America’s charitable foundation.
The program will introduce golf to veterans with disabilities to help with their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being.
“The next step is to continue to focus on the veterans themselves,” Aloha Section executive director Wes Wailehua says. “We are going to roll out this program for sure in 2019 as we get approvals and work with the VA.”
National instructors are expected here soon to certify local pros for teaching and running programs.
“The concept is to start with one or two programs each running six weeks where we teach vets the basics of golf, and/or if they have played previously to take them to the next level,” says Hal Okita, a vet and former Aloha Section ED helping with the program. “We will be incorporating lessons to overcome any injuries that may have left them lasting obstacles to overcome.”
Join the mission today at FoldofHonor.org