The Texas Wounded Warrior Foundation began in 2007 in Tyler shortly after retired PGA professional Dick Goetz met Ron Nash of Dallas, a retired Navy Lt. Commander, at a golf tournament in Dallas.
Goetz had recently spent some time on the driving range with seriously injured wounded warriors at Camp LeJeune, N. C., helping them with their golf swings and basic fundamentals of the game.
Goetz and Nash discussed the idea of bringing some wounded warriors to Tyler for a Pro-Am. They co-founded the birth of the Texas Wounded Warrior Foundation.
The inaugural event in 2008 was a one-day Pro-Am with seven wounded warriors from Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio participating. The following year, a two-day event for 17 wounded warriors included a party the first night and a Pro-Am the next day.
Over the last seven years, festivities have evolved into a three-day weekend involving 25-30 injured warriors annually and providing many opportunities for good food and R&R.
Several professional golfers, including Bruce Lietske, Bobby Nichols, Charles Coody and Rives McBee, have donated their time helping warriors on the day of the Pro-Am.
Medical experts and military leaders say that letting these men and women vent their frustrations on the golf course helps some of them forget their injuries for a time and create determination they need for rehabilitation.
Many generals and other high-ranking military officers attend the festivities and play in the Pro-Am. Musicians and comedians from around the country volunteer their time. Country and western singer Randy Travis entertained the warriors last year.
While in Tyler, warriors visit two schools, where they are given a rousing patriotic welcome by hundreds of students waving American flags.
“That greeting meant so much,” said one warrior after last year’s event. “I had trouble maintaining my composure.”
Businesses from Tyler and the golfing industry have provided excellent sponsorship support over the years that the Pro-Am has been held. Over a $1,500,000 has been raised to help wounded warriors since the first Pro-Am was held.
“I’m often asked why our organization is necessary since our government is supposed to take care of its wounded military,” said Goetz. “Our mission is to help provide critical assistance when veterans’ benefits are slow in getting started or do not meet the full scope of basic needs for warriors and their families following combat injuries they sustained in Iraq or Afghanistan.”