MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. (WCCO) – The 9th annual “Tee it Up for the Troops” event brought out more than 1,000 golfers to the Mendakota Country Club in Mendota Heights Friday.
The event allowed more than 100 veterans and Purple Heart recipients to golf for free in a show of appreciation for their service.
The first swing on the tee box marks the start of an 18-hole challenge. Mike Reeder, a Vietnam War veteran who is visiting from Nashville, Tenn., had nothing but confidence as he began his game.
“Each day you strive to be better. The game of golf is you against the course,” Reeder said.
He’s used to overcoming the odds. He came back from the Vietnam War a changed man, having lost both his legs while serving overseas.
“I was shaking the water out of my boots and made a step in the wrong direction,” he said. “Probably about three years where my mind was just a whirl.”
War injuries are an outcome shared by more than a dozen of his fellow golfers, including Iraq War veteran Chad Pfeifer.
“In April of 2007, our truck hit an improvised explosive device which resulted in the loss of my left leg,” Pfeifer said.
For Pfeifer, this game is a form of therapy – both physically and emotionally.
“It’s allowed me to kind of get used to the prosthetic,” he said.
Through golf, he has also found a way to reconnect with a military life cut short by war.
“Being around other soldiers, you get that brotherhood back that you kind of were taken out of,” he said.
On this course, veterans learn that handicap is only a golf term. On the fairway, they get the motivation to improve but also the drive to inspire.
“I want the newly disabled to know that ‘Yes you can.’ Get up off the couch, find something,” Reeder said.
Pfeifer is honing his skills to be a professional golfer. He’s trying to become the first amputee to win on the PGA or Web.com Tour.