RMU Veterans Golf Academy
Robert Morris University has always gone above and beyond to help military veterans improve their lives through education. Now it’s helping them improve their golf swing, too.
The Veterans Golf Academy is an 8-week program where veterans get one-on-one instruction from RMU’s golf pros. Held at the RMU Island Sports Center Dome on Neville Island, the academy takes place on Wednesday nights and enables veterans to work on things like their swing, putting, and pitching. The goal of the academy is to provide a therapeutic medium for these individuals and help them on the road to full recovery.
James Cichra, golf director at the Island Sports Dome, has been a PGA member since 1983 and is in his 30th year of instruction. “As golfers, we know how great it is to be out there on the course. When these veterans get out and have fun with other golfers, it’s really therapeutic. Hopefully, they’ll get hooked and learn what a great game it really is.”
Cichra and the academy’s other instructors were all certified through the Adaptive Golf Professional Certification Training Academy, an educational partnership between the Salute Military Golf Association and Penn State’s Global Accessibility Initiative.
So far Cichra says the biggest challenge has been learning how to deal with the participants individually. “Some of them are living with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and other combat-related disabilities,” he says. “It’s our job to try to understand them better, how to communicate best to them, and how each one prefers to learn. It’s really not that much different than what we do with our regular students.”
“Many of our veterans of all ages and eras are combating both physical and emotional stress and pain,” says Dan Rota, Ph.D., RMU’s director of Veterans Education and Training Services. “In my opinion recreation is an important stress reliever and may not only help speed up the recovery processes but also may improve the quality of life for the veterans.”
As of now the Veterans Golf Academy has funding to continue for another year. Right now they are planning on holding some fundraisers and hope to do another 8-week program in the fall.
Written by Valentine J. Brkich