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Veteran Golfers Association opens headquarters in North Carolina

Motorcycle riders from the 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army Forces Command and U.S. Army Reserve Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., park in front of the Carolina Hotel at Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, N.C., during the 2nd annual Blessing of the Bikes Motorcycle Mentorship Program hosted by USARC, March 15, 2012.

TIMOTHY HALE/U.S. ARMY

By RODD BAXLEY | The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer | Published: May 13, 2018

PINEHURST, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Josh Peyton described it perfectly.

Surrounded by veterans on Friday at the grand opening of the Veteran Golfers Association’s national headquarters in Pinehurst, the president of the organization knew the significance of the event.

“I call Pinehurst home. I think this is the perfect marriage between military and golf,” said Peyton, 41, who spent 20 years at Fort Bragg as part of the 82nd Airborne Division.

“Hopefully, it’ll be a positive impact on VGA members across the country.”

Founded in Pinehurst in 2014, the VGA is a national nonprofit organization that offers U.S. military veterans the opportunity to enjoy competition and community through golf. Membership is open to all U.S. veterans — wounded, nonwounded, disabled, active duty and retired — as well as to their families, including parents, siblings and dependents who are at least 18.

Nestled on the corner of Magnolia Road in the village of Pinehurst, the clubhouse was a roughly nine-month project that culminated with Friday’s celebration.

“I think being in the heart of downtown Pinehurst, in the village of Pinehurst, is important because we get millions of golfers that come through here and we want them to know about the Veterans Golfers Association,” Peyton said.

“This is a way for us to spread this awareness.”

Veterans and their families, along with several special guests, filled the building to capacity on Friday, admiring the work put in by Peyton and his team.

“All of the attention to detail is things that I learned in the military,” Peyton said. “This organization represents a lot to 3,500 members across the country, so if we do something, we want to do it right. All of the time spent with that attention to detail shows in the clubhouse.”

Pictures of the organization’s members crowd the space on the walls surrounding the bar area, with tables bearing the association’s logo and merchandise available for purchase throughout the space. The centerpiece of the bar is its bar top, which is made of wood from a tree from Pinehurst’s famed No. 2 course, the site of several U.S. Open championships.

Gary Yeatts, the Southern Regional Director of the VGA, made the trip from Myrtle Beach, S.C. to celebrate the opening of the clubhouse.

“To walk in, I was mesmerized by what the team had been able to do in just a short period of time with our clubhouse,” said Yeatts, who joined the association at the end of 2015.

“Pinehurst is the anchor for a lot of golf organizations, and now it is ours as well. It’s just a wonderful venue and a wonderful location for us to be.”

Yeatts, who joined the Army in 1984, did four tours in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan before retiring in 2006.

Like Peyton, Yeatts sees the opportunities for veterans to connect through the game of golf and beyond.

“The thing that I didn’t realize when I volunteered my time with the Veteran Golfers Association was the numbers of veterans that are out there that are just looking for an avenue to compete, but also an avenue to fellowship,” he said.

“A lot of times, the fellowship outweighs the competition. Those stories can be told over many, many hours. Those memories are being made each and every time that we meet each other on the golf course. Our mission is golf, veterans and family members.”

The coronation of the clubhouse seemed complete when noted North Carolina basketball figure Phil Ford walked through the doors to congratulate Peyton, a long-time friend of the former Tar Heels point guard.

“Anything I can do to support the Veteran Golfers Association, and support veterans in our country, I’m here,” Ford said.

“They’re the ones that fight for our freedom. I don’t think that we can ever do too much for our veterans and the people who fight for us. (Josh) just told me to come down and support the clubhouse. I didn’t really know what it was. Once I walked in here, I was thoroughly impressed, man. This is a great place. I’m looking forward to spending some time here.”

Staying true to the theme of the evening with golf and the military coming together in Pinehurst, Ford was happy to take part in the “historic occasion.”

“You think about it. Golf has had such a big history in North Carolina. Veterans with our (military) bases here have such a big history in North Carolina,” Ford said.

“My older brother was a 20-year veteran of the Air Force before he passed. I’m extremely proud to give my support. I hope the best for them and they know they have my support in any of the endeavors that they do.”

Annually, the VGA hosts more than 250 golf tournaments for more than 3,500 members across the country, culminating in a national championship for veterans. The 2018 VGA Championship will be hosted by the world-­renowned Olympic Club in San Francisco, host site of multiple U.S. Opens.

The site of the championship may change from year to year, but the mission remains the same for Peyton and company.

With a national headquarters now open in Pinehurst, the hope is that the organization will continue to add to its growing number of members and will provide a place for veterans to connect along the way.

“I think that we focus on our mission. Our mission is to enrich the lives of veterans and their family members through the game of golf,” Peyton said.

“I think that we’re laser-focused on that, but I think some ancillary things that happen are friendships and lasting bonds that are formed on the golf course.”

©2018 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)
Visit The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.) at www.fayobserver.com
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