'It's a therapy': Mundelein man brings golf to fellow veterans with disabilities

  • Army vet Jim Nelson recently represented Illinois at National Golf & Wellness Week in Washington, D.C. He is an ambassador for the PGA HOPE program that introduces golf to veterans with disabilities.

    Army vet Jim Nelson recently represented Illinois at National Golf & Wellness Week in Washington, D.C. He is an ambassador for the PGA HOPE program that introduces golf to veterans with disabilities. Courtesy of Mundelein Park & Recreation District

  • Army vet Jim Nelson, second from right with gray pants, participates in a PGA HOPE golf clinic at Pine Meadow Golf Club in Mundelein. He's an ambassador for the program to help veterans enhance their well-being.

    Army vet Jim Nelson, second from right with gray pants, participates in a PGA HOPE golf clinic at Pine Meadow Golf Club in Mundelein. He's an ambassador for the program to help veterans enhance their well-being. Courtesy of Mundelein Park & Recreation District

  • Army veteran Jim Nelson gets a lesson from teaching pro Judy Alvarez during National Golf & Wellness Week in Washington, D.C. Nelson was the Illinois representative for PGA HOPE.

    Army veteran Jim Nelson gets a lesson from teaching pro Judy Alvarez during National Golf & Wellness Week in Washington, D.C. Nelson was the Illinois representative for PGA HOPE. Courtesy of Jim Nelson

 
 
Updated 11/7/2021 8:36 AM

U.S. Army veteran Jim Nelson of Mundelein isn't great at golf but says there's more to the game than scoring well.

Through his involvement with the Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies program at the Mundelein Park & Recreation District, Nelson helped organize and participated in clinics to introduce the sport to veterans with disabilities.

 

Healthy Minds Healthy Bodies is a trademarked program of Plainfield-based AllenForce and implemented by licensed fitness centers for wounded, ill or injured military personnel as a way to transition back into the community.

The golf clinic held at Pine Meadow Golf Club in Mundelein is part of PGA HOPE (Helping our Patriots Everywhere) and designed to positively impact the lives of veterans through golf.

Last month, Nelson represented Illinois in Washington, D.C., for National Golf & Wellness Week, when was trained to become a local ambassador for the program.

"Golf isn't only about doing well or improving your score," Nelson said. "It's really fun when someone else is excited."

He recalled playing with a veteran with shoulder and knee problems, who used forward tees closer to the hole. On one par 4, his playing partner hit a nice drive and then chipped in from the fairway, to notch his first eagle, which is two under par.

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"He was so thrilled. It was like everything else dropped -- the shoulder problems weren't there," Nelson said.

"It's a therapy. When you get out on the golf course, you're not thinking about PTSD or the problems you've got," he added.

PGA HOPE is the flagship military program of PGA REACH, the charitable foundation of the PGA of America. The free program introduces golf to veterans with disabilities to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being through clinics taught by PGA professionals.

"I don't think it's really well known here and that's part of the challenge," said Nelson. "I'll be involved with the PGA of Illinois planning the 2022 clinics and deciding how that all will roll out."

Nelson served in the U.S. Army from 1962 to 1965 and spent about a year and a half in Germany with a Pershing missile battalion. He's a member of Mundelein American Legion Post 867 and a delegate to the Veteran Assistance Commission of Lake County.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He dabbled but didn't embrace golf until after he retired from a 40-plus year in the telecommunications industry. He took a lesson at the park district's Steeple Chase Golf Club and for the last six years has been working 30 hours a week there as a groundskeeper.

PGA HOPE clinics throughout the U.S. serve more than 3,500 veterans a year, Nelson said. It debuted at Pine Meadow in 2020 and this year had about 20 participants for each of 11 golf clinic sessions, according to Christine Lopez, coordinator of the Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies program at the Mundelein Park & Recreation District. AllenForce partnered in the golf clinics.

Terry Russell, PGA teaching professional and lead instructor of PGA HOPE, nominated Nelson to represent Illinois in Washington.

"Jim Nelson is committed to serving his country, fellow veterans, the PGA HOPE program and the game of golf," he said.

• Do you know of veterans helping other veterans, doing good things for their community or who have an interesting story to tell? Share your story at veterans@dailyherald.com.

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