Jim Estes teaches disabled veterans at Olney Golf Park, in Olney, Maryland.
Can you give us a quick update on the state of your project?
The state of the Salute Military Golf Association (SMGA) is strong and growing. 2007 was really just a beginning for us, and we expect that the program will enrich the lives of even more soldiers this year. In January alone, we’ve already attended the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, met with members of Congress, renewed our relationship with Olney Golf Park, will work directly with the PGA of America and Disabled Sports USA in hosting a series of golf clinics for combat wounded veterans, and are deep in preparations for our annual fundraising tournament to be held May 12.
What has been the effect, if any, of making GOLF’s list of innovators?
Being recognized as one of GOLF Magazine’s Innovators of the game, and being included among such giants of the game as Greg Norman, was a true honor. Being recognized lent our program credibility, and I hope it also extended awareness about the positive impacts, both mental and physical, that golf can have by being included in a rehabilitation program. The SMGA’s aim is to further the mental and physical rehabilitation of combat wounded soldiers injured in Iraq or Afghanistan, but golf’s positive force can benefit anyone with a handicap or disability.
Any idea what your next project/idea will be?
I’ll have my hands full this spring, summer and fall, teaching full-time, serving as SMGA’s president, running a series of 8 spring clinics for combat-wounded soldiers, hopefully playing competitively on occassion, and being a father to two great kids. Ideas often just happen, and right now, we’re focused on strengthening the SMGA to enable it to serve as many soldiers as possible.
Who are you watching in the world of golf that would be your nominee for the innovator list in ’08?
There are a lot of groups who are doing great things for soldiers in the game of golf; we shared a booth at the PGA Show with J.B. Ball of Tee it Up for the Troops. But the most inspirational story I’ve seen recently is about a 5-year-old cancer survior, Kyle LaGrasso, who took up the game at the ripe old age of 18 months. Kyle only has one eye, but has already come close to breaking 40 for nine holes. He stopped by our booth at the show with his father, so now I’ll be able to say, “I knew him when…”