TEEd off in Iowa

Hundreds of disabled vets thrive at 25th annual adaptive sports event

Chas Henry
September 19, 2018 - 9:50 am

Photo courtesy Disabled American Veterans

Golfing blind?  Disabled vets have been doing it for 25 years at the annual TEE Tournament in Iowa City, Iowa — co-sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the group Disabled American Veterans.  In recent years, event organizers have expanded the program to include military vets dealing with other disabilities, as well.

More than 200 veterans with visual impairments, severe illness or injury participated in the 2018 National Disabled Veterans Training, Exposure and Experience Tournament .

Special coaching and adaptive equipment helped the athletes play through -- clubs that use a powder cartridge to propel the ball, for instance; and carts that hold golfers in place as they take shots, compensating for missing or paralyzed limbs.

“We use a foursome format," says the VA's Kirt Sickles, who directs the TEE Tournament, "because, you know, everybody that way has an opportunity to participate and contribute.”

What draws veterans to take on the challenge?  It's more than just a desire for fresh air and competition.

“This event saved my life," says return player Kenneth Thompson.  The Army veteran suffered a traumatic brain injury and other wounds in Iraq.  From his home in South Carolina, he's made the trek to Iowa City year after year.  "About nine years ago, I was in a deep depression," he says.  Camaraderie and shared encouragement have kept him coming back to get on the green with "people going through the same thing I’ve been going through.  We can keep each other uplifted.”

Photo courtesy Disabled American Veterans

Photo courtesy Disabled American Veterans

Over the years, the TEE Tournament has expanded its activities beyond golf.  At this year's gathering, veterans also took part in adaptive cycling, fishing, bowling, kayaking, scuba diving, disc golf, marksmanship and rock wall climbing.

"The fact that this important event has been around for a quarter century," says VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, "says a lot about its positive impact on many disabled Veterans each year."

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