WEST POINT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Some military members who are battling post-traumatic stress disorder have begun turning to golf as a form of therapeutic treatment.
CBS2’s Steve Overmyer reports PGA Hope is a six-week program teaching golf to veterans like Bill Aguilar, who never before picked up clubs. It’s designed to enhance rehabilitation from PTSD.
“This program is changing lives,” said Andy Crane, head PGA pro at West Point. “After war and what they’ve been through, they didn’t know what they could do, and we can show them golf is one of the avenues.”
For these veterans, West Point Golf Course is a sanctuary, a safe place where they can open up.
“I never talk about this. My plane went down in Cambodia – two guys died,” Aguilar explained. “For eight years, I didn’t even know I was in the service. I had amnesia and went to rejoin and they were laughing at me. Then I find I have a brain disorder.”
Carmine DiPasquale says golf really helps.
“It does. It lets you relax,” DiPasquale said. “You know, I don’t have the stress of buses and trains and planes and stuff like that.”
American soldiers have the highest PTSD rate in the world. About 20 percent of vets experience PTSD – anything from noise, to lights, even smell can serve as a trigger.
“I shake a lot, take a lot of medication for PTSD, but as soon as you swing, everything just goes away,” Aguilar said.
Golf offers a successful treatment program because it gives veterans a physical outlet in a positive environment around vets of all ages who have shared in the experience.
“This is like my first activity getting back to a normal life, so it’s nice, I’m enjoying it,” Bobby Colletti said. “It makes me feel like a normal person again.”
Dave Nickles said, “You realize you can do things. It’s a portal to a better life.”
At least 300,000 service men and women battle PTSD.