PGA TOUR players help wounded heroes enjoy a club fitting experience in New Orleans
April 23, 2014
NEW ORLEANS- Combat-wounded U.S. Army veterans August Debyser and Christopher Gray were very appreciative for the opportunity to be fitted with their own customized set of Callaway Golf clubs during the 2014 Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Tuesday at TPC Louisiana. However, their gratitude was no match for the appreciation expressed to these American heroes by PGA TOUR players Jerry Kelly and Matt Every, both of whom described the experience as very humbling.
Part of the PGA TOUR’s Birdies for the Brave military outreach initiative, the Callaway Warrior Club Fitting experience began with an opportunity for the warriors to learn about the process for fitting PGA TOUR players with clubs in the Callaway Golf truck. From there, the warriors were fitted with their own set of irons and drivers on the driving range, where Every was hitting balls. He was happy to come over and express his deep gratitude to the warriors, sign their hats, and take a few photos. The warriors were then fitted for putters, and began practicing on the putting green. Kelly, who was practicing nearby, immediately approached the group to express his appreciation for their service. He then spent time working with both warriors on their grips, stance and stroke. At the completion of the fitting, the warriors had the opportunity to enjoy the tournament as guests of the TOUR.
The club fitting experience provided some much-needed relaxation for both of these Purple Heart recipients. Debyser joined the U.S. Army as part of the Combat Medic 10th Mountain Division in 2001, and was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. He was injured in a direct motor attack by an IED during combat operations, suffering moderate traumatic brain injuries, a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and a herniated and bulging disk in his back. He was medically retired in May 2007, and currently works as a client relations director for Bastion Community of Resilience in New Orleans, where he assists on building international, integrated veterans communities for veterans and their families.
Gray joined the U.S. Army in 2002, and was deployed to Iraq shortly after his training. Following his first tour, he came home for a year, before being redeployed back to Iraq. On his second tour, he trained local citizens to become police and militant officers. After a brief retirement, he re-enlisted two years later with the Illinois National Guard, where he was deployed to Afghanistan. On May 20, 2009, while on patrol in Southern Kandahar, an IED went off under Christopher's vehicle, rendering him unconscious. He suffered traumatic brain injuries, a broken nose, and collapsed femoral arteries. Last summer, Christopher was able to undergo surgery to replace his hips, enabling him to get back to work and play golf again. He currently works as a recreation therapy assistant with the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Gulfport, Mississippi.
"Working with the players today was epic,” said Gray. I learned more about my putting stroke in the time that Jerry Kelly worked with me today, than all of the previous hours I spent agonizing over my putting together. Special thanks to all the members of the Callaway and Birdies for the Brave teams. I am truly blessed."
The Callaway Warrior Club Fitting program is designed to show appreciation to the courageous members of our U.S. Armed Forces who have been injured during combat, as well as assist in their rehabilitation by providing them with golf lessons and customized clubs.
For more information, please visit birdiesforthebrave.org.
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