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Wounded Warriors Learn Golf Fundamentals at TPC Sawgrass

Stan Badz-PGA TOUR

April 12, 2011

By Maggie Fitzroy, Florida Times Union

This article originally appeared in the Florida Times Union on April 12, 2011. To view the original article please click here.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.—Doctors declared Army soldier Brent “Hoss” Hendrix dead after he was injured by a roadside bomb while fighting the war in Iraq in 2006. Through emergency surgery, they brought him back to life.

Since then, he’s had 66 surgeries, including the amputation of one leg and reconstruction of his other. Learning to walk again took him 18 months. And the once-athletic 26-year-old knows he’ll never be able to run again.

“But I don’t have to be able to run on a golf course,” he said Friday during a Wounded Warrior Project golf clinic at TPC Sawgrass. “I can just ride in a golf cart.”

After personal instruction from golf professionals including PGA TOUR Players Fred Funk and Len Mattiace, Hendrix, of Jacksonville, said he could see that the sport would be therapeutic for him.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to play before,” he said. Now, “my goal is to become a better player, have fun with friends. It’s something I can do with my leisure time.”

Hendrix was one of 40 Wounded Warrior Project members to participate in the special clinic hosted by TPC Sawgrass staff. As part of the PGA Tour's support for the Birdies for the Brave military outreach initiative, the clinic was the culmination of a day of fun activities that began that morning with a military appreciation ceremony, followed by a special 20-mile "honor cycling ride" through Ponte Vedra Beach.

The bicycle ride aimed to demonstrate appreciation to injured men and women from all branches of the armed services for their service and sacrifice in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it served as a kickoff for an awareness-raising Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride in Jacksonville the next day.

The Wounded Warrior Project is a national nonprofit organization based in Jacksonville that honors and empowers members, assisting them through programs and services. Some are still in active duty and others, like Hendrix, are medically retired.

Some rode adaptive bicycles during the honor ride, and the group was accompanied by some members of the PGA TOUR cycling team.

After a picnic lunch on the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse lawn with Tour employees, the soldiers participated in the three-part golf clinic, which introduced fundamentals of the sport at three stations. TPC head golf pro Matt Borocz led instruction in chipping, Funk taught full swing fundamentals and Mattiace led the putting station.

“It’s great, because golf is rehabilitative both physically and mentally," said Dan Nevins, executive vice president of events for the Wounded Warrior Project. “A good 60 percent of them have never played golf before.”

The soldiers are dealing with disabilities including broken backs, amputations, burns and nerve damage, he said. “The 40 wounded warriors here represent 237 years of military service and 58 combat tours.”

After Hendrix finished a lesson with Mattiace, he said he enjoyed “just being out here with the nice greens, and the geese and gators.”

“It's a good feeling,” being able “to zone everything out and just focus on having a golf club in your hand and having experts teach you,” he said.

“These guys are known for golf.”

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