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Camaraderie, competition, and the game of golf bringing veterans and families together

Posted at 7:03 PM, May 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-24 08:41:10-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It was a beautiful morning in Omaha. Lows 60s, no wind, sun shining — perfect for golf.

“We haven’t even teed off and we’ve already won,” Navy Veteran Jesse Schmidt said.

‘We’ being the members of the Veteran Golfers Association.

“It’s located in every state with members in every state — even in Bahrain and Germany now,” VGA Nebraska State Director Jason Moore told me.

The national nonprofit has more than 14,000 active members and 600 events each year across the country.

“It’s a lot of fun for people to get together with people who have that shared experience of being vets, or families of vets,” Moore said.

Golfers compete in flights separated by skill level, age, and whether they are veterans or family members of veterans.

On this day, the Nebraska chapter is hosting one of its 18 tournaments of the season at the Players Club in Omaha.

“This is an example of one of the really nice courses that I normally wouldn’t be able to play,” Air Force Veteran Chuck Cantoya shared.

While VGA Nebraska is hosting the event, it's not limited to the state’s 120 active members.

“I’ve probably played in about five or six states, and courses I’ve never played before or would have played at,” Moore said of his time with the VGA.

Schmidt listed the states the VGA has helped him cross off.

“Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri — and then North Carolina coming up.”

He’s playing in North Carolina because he qualified for the Senior National Championships at the prestigious Pinehurst Resort.

It’s the competition he and other members were seeking.

“The adrenaline that you can get, and the nerves that you can get, in a tournament don’t compare to a Saturday round with the buddies," Schmidt said.

This isn’t a Saturday with the boys. In fact, the bonds are even stronger.

“My second tournament I knew maybe two or three people, but seven or eight knew me (by name) from the first one,” Schmidt gleamed. “They came up and gave me a bro hug my second time here, and I was like, ‘This is cool.’”

“I’ll walk into these tournaments and a lot of faces I’ve never seen before, but these are my brothers. It’s just there. Young, old, that bond is there,” Cantoya added. “We’re pulling for each other. Even if we don’t know each other, we’re pulling for each other.”

To anyone on the fence about joining, Moore said this.

“You know, a lot of vets, when they get away from active duty, they miss their friends. They miss that group of core people they’re with. This is your chance to have a new core group of people.”

Moore says one of the events they look forward to the most each year is the Corn Cup, when Nebraska and Iowa go head-to-head in match play for bragging rights.

To learn more information about the VGA or to become a member, click here.

You can get in direct contact with your corresponding state director with the information below:

- Facebook: VGA Iowa 

- Facebook: VGA Nebraska 

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