by Tom Cade, Editor
The Pacific Northwest Section PGA (PNWPGA) has contracted Jeff Bojanowski to be its first ambassador to oversee the Section’s PGA HOPE program.
Taught by local PGA professionals, PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) is a free, adaptive program introducing Veterans with disabilities to golf, to use the game as a therapeutic outlet, and to enhance their physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being.
The PNWPGA is currently in the process of growing its PGA HOPE program to serve the hundreds of thousands of Veterans and active duty military who call the Pacific Northwest home.
PGA HOPE Pacific Northwest currently operates four program locations serving Veterans in Tacoma, Spokane, Missoula (Mont.) and Southern Oregon.
Bojanowski’s role as ambassador for the PGA HOPE program is to find PGA professionals to teach the clinics, find golf courses on which to conduct the clinics, tell veterans about the program, create continued golf opportunities for veterans once they graduate from the program, and to raise funds for the program.
He also wants to create golf events and men’s and women’s clubs for the Veterans to continue with the game after they have graduated from the program.
Bojanowski’s journey to taking the lead of this Section’s HOPE program has been a long one, but golf has been its through-line.
He was born in Astoria, Ore., where his father was a PGA instructor at Astoria Golf and Country Club. His father, who had twice been a state high school golf champion, then became the lead PGA instructor at what is now called RedTail Golf Center in Beaverton, Ore.
“He cut down a 7-iron for me to hit balls with,” Bojanowski recalls. “I had junior clubs before junior clubs were a thing.”
He played on the Corvallis (Ore.) High School golf team for two years. “I’m the guy who skipped school to go play golf,” he says with a laugh. “If I skipped school to just goof off, then I got in trouble from my dad, but if I skipped school to play golf, then I didn’t get in trouble. That’s how much my family loved the game.”
Bojanowski enlisted in the Army in 1998 at the age of 22, and would serve as a Cavalry Scout. The job of a scout is to do reconnaissance missions to clear the area – in other words, go out and see if the enemy is in an area and report back to the commander. In other words, it’s a dangerous job.
He was deployed to Iraq in 2004 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. On Christmas Night of 2004, while out on a reconnaissance mission, Bojanowski was injured from a car bomb explosion. He was sent home for convalescence, to have shrapnel removed from his face and for the hole in his right arm to heal. He was awarded the Purple Heart.
After three and a half months of rehabilitation, Bojanowski went back to Iraq to finish his tour of duty.
He was discharged from active duty in 2006 after eight years and joined the Army Reserve, where he was an ROTC Instructor for the next six years. He left military duty completely in December of 2012 after 14 years of service.
To this day, Bojanowski still has shrapnel in his back from his injuries, and suffers from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). He is considered to be 80 percent disabled due to this.
“While on deployment we played golf once in a while on make-shift courses in the desert,” he says. “When I left the service, I picked up the game again to help me adjust to civilian life. I have PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury) as well as anxiety and depression. Golf has been a therapeutic outlet for me as it allows me to turn my brain off and focus on the game and not what happened to me while deployed in combat.”
It was during a round at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash. that the idea came to him of actually working at a golf course. “I saw some of the people doing the guest services stuff,” he says, “and I thought, ‘I should do that.’”
He began working at Chambers Bay, doing guest services, eventually becoming assistant caddie master, and then helping to staff the golf shop.
It was while he was working in the golf shop that he was approached by Ryan Young, one of the PGA instructors at the Chambers Bay Academy.
“Ryan told me I should sign up for the PGA HOPE golf clinic that he teaches,” Bojanowski says. “He said it’s for veterans, and it’s free. He explained how it helps veterans with the same disabilities as myself to get out and socialize with one another while enjoying the game of golf.”
Bojanowski went all in, graduating from the program in 2018.
Since then, with the encouragement and advice from Young and also Angela Hinzpeter, the director of special operations at the Pacific Northwest Section PGA, Bojanowski pursued the role of becoming the first PGA HOPE ambassador for the Section.
“I have met numerous golfing veterans since I graduated from the PGA HOPE program,” he says. “I believe that if not for this program and the opportunities that it has provided me I would not be the same person I am today.”
Bojanowski says there are over 300 Veterans in the region who are waiting to attend a PGA HOPE clinic.
“My goal is to find more PGA pros who want to be instructors,” he says. “They have to be trained in adaptive golf and military cultural competency. They have to know how to work with wounded Veterans who are going through some sort of rehabilitation.”
He sees the value of this program as providing physical therapy, camaraderie through shared experiences, and continued interest in the game after they graduate from the program.
“I look forward to being the PGA HOPE Ambassador for the Pacific Northwest Section and helping other veterans get the same assistance that I got through the game of golf,” Bojanowski says. “I cannot wait to meet other PGA professionals in the Section and create more places for Veterans to pick up the game of golf and have fun while rehabilitating.”
Along with Young teaching the PGA HOPE clinics at Chambers Bay, Chris Runyan has been giving clinics in the Spokane area, first through his role as PGA instructor at GOLFTEC and now as PGA director of golf at Circling Raven Golf Club in Worley, Idaho.
Bojanowski has already had some success in growing the program. Other courses in the area who will be offering the program in 2023 include The Home Course in DuPont, Lake Spanaway in Tacoma, and Tumwater Valley.
Want to host a PGA HOPE program?
If you are a PGA professional who is already conducting PGA HOPE programs, or who has an interest in running one, please contact Angela Hinzpeter, [email protected].
Click here for more information or to donate to the PGA HOPE and the other Veterans programs conducted by the Pacific Northwest Section PGA.
Did You Know
- Participants of PGA HOPE programs include military Veterans living with physical and cognitive challenges such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and amputees, among other challenges.
- PGA HOPE programming is fully funded by PGA REACH and offered at no cost for military Veterans.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs research and clinical experience verify that physical activity is important to maintaining good health, speeding recovery, and improving overall quality of life. For many injured Veterans, adaptive sports provide their first exposure to physical activity after injury.
- PGA HOPE has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Veterans Affairs, which enables recreational therapists to refer Veterans to the PGA HOPE program as a form of therapy.
About PGA HOPE
PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) is the flagship military program of PGA REACH, the charitable foundation of the PGA of America. PGA HOPE introduces golf to veterans with disabilities to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. The program introduces the game of golf through a developmental 6-8 week curriculum, taught by PGA Professionals trained in adaptive golf and military cultural competency. All programs are funded by PGA REACH and supplemented by PGA Section Foundations, so the cost of programming is free to all Veterans. Through a robust program strategy, PGA HOPE aspires to create a physically and emotionally healthier veteran community by shaping lives, changing lives, and possibly saving lives through the game of golf. Visit PGA HOPE for more information.