Wounded veterans compete for chance to represent the US … this time playing golf
“In our line of work, people don’t smile a lot,” said Shawn Whitmore as he flashed a huge beaming smile. “It’s such a treat being out here on the course at Dataw Island, and the warm welcome we receive each year makes it feel like a real homecoming. We feel like rock stars.”
Whitmore and nine fellow wounded veterans enjoyed a practice round today in preparation for tomorrow’s qualifying round at Dataw Island, in which they will compete for a coveted spot on the Simpson Cup team, a Ryder Cup-style event produced annually by the On Course Foundation in which wounded and disabled American veterans compete against their British counterparts. This year, 56 golfers are competing in qualifiers around the country to earn one of five spots on the team.
Saturday at 9:00 am, Col. Glenn Blackburn will make the ceremonial first shot on the Tom Fazio-designed Cotton Dike course at Dataw Island, and competition is expected to be tough.
“There are some fantastic competitors playing at Dataw this week,” Whitmore said. “This course is one of the most challenging qualifiers and some of the strongest players are here to compete. The course has a lot of tooth, a lot of yardage. I tell the guys not to let the yardage fool them; a long shot won’t take the place of quality golf shots.”
When asked why they would choose to compete in one of the harder qualifiers, Whitmore admitted that the “tour-like” conditions of the course are a big draw, but even more appealing are the members and staff who make the experience one they look forward to every year. “We really feel like we are coming home to family when we come to Dataw. We are treated like family, like royalty actually, and we truly appreciate Dataw members.”
And, members share the sentiment. With a large contingency of veterans living on the island, along with civilians who are avid supporters of our military, it is no wonder the gentlemen from the On Course Foundation feel so welcomed.
“These men have made an incredible sacrifice,” said Dataw Island member Dave Luzzi, himself a veteran. “Dataw Island is honored to be given this wonderful opportunity to open our doors in support of service members. It’s also great to look at these guys and see camaraderie and competition shine through the game of golf.”
The On Course Foundation supports the rehabilitation of wounded, injured and sick service-members and veterans through the medium of golf. While their main goal is to offer work placements and opportunities to service personnel and veterans suffering from physical and mental injuries, they also offer comprehensive golf tuition from their training professionals. Their reasons for doing so are simple – they believe that the sport of golf offers members a way to socialize and compete healthily, thereby improving confidence as well as physical and mental strength.
Dataw Island is a gated golf, tennis and boating lifestyle community located fifteen minutes outside of historic downtown Beaufort. The island features two recently-renovated golf courses by designers Tom Fazio and Arthur Hills, a tennis center, a community center with workout and massage facilities, three restaurants, world class croquet lawns, bocce, kayaking, and more. The community has also been ranked the number one best retirement destination in South Carolina by Best Retirement Destinations and is the recipient of the 2017 Bliss Award for “Happiest South Carolina Community” as well as the “2018 Club of the Year” (South Carolina Golf Association) and one of four USTA private clubs named “Outstanding Tennis Facility.”