Eight severely wounded or ill military veterans will be visiting the Home of Golf this year, thanks to the fundraising efforts of St Andrews Legacy.
The veterans – including amputees and double amputees – play golf as part of their rehabilitation and therapy, and they will take part in a four-a-side match between the USA and the Commonwealth to be played over some of the country’s finest courses, including the Old Course.
The week-long event, which will take place in May, has been supported by the generosity of the Del Rio Country Club community of Modesto, California, which hosted a golf day in support of St Andrews Legacy.
Modesto businessman Tom Cosentino was the driving force in bringing 40 participants to Del Rio.
Tom said: “I had cautious expectations, but the response was such that we could have had many more players with no trouble and the results were overwhelming – everyone said they would be back again next year.”
Three of the veterans who will be in St Andrews in May attended the fundraising event. Americans Jim Martinson and Marc Esposito, and Grenadier Guard Scott Blaney have over 40 years’ experience of conflicts and peacekeeping missions.
Marc has played golf since suffering severe leg and back injuries in Afghanistan.
“The longest I walked after getting out of a wheelchair was on a golf course,” he said. “It was a big part of getting my mobility back. I got out there and got it back.”
Marc is determined to reduce his handicap from 15 to 10 by May. He added: “It is so good to work towards something – to have something to shoot for – playing your best at St Andrews.”
British veteran Scott, who lost his right leg and had his right elbow shattered in a landmine explosion in Afghanistan in 2007, has already overcome his physical challenges with incredible acts of endurance, including running marathons, swimming the English Channel and being part of a four-man team that rowed 3000 miles across the Atlantic.
He got the chance to play the Old Course last summer as part of a group of war-wounded Commonwealth servicemen, and is looking forward to returning later this year.
He was also full of praise for the fundraising efforts and hospitality of Del Rio members
“You couldn’t get better,” said Scott. “The kindness and friendship was fantastic. They still say ‘thank you for your service’. They know the sacrifice the British lads have made and it’s nice to know that. It is not falling on deaf ears.”