Fairways for Warriors saves, changes lives

Central Fla. golf organization reaches out, helps wounded warriors


On the greens these guys are still honing their golfing skills but on the battlefield most have received a Purple Heart for their actions.

[WEB EXTRA: Information on golf course | Extended interview]

Tom Underdown created "Fairways for Warriors" to give back to our heroes once they come home.

"So many of them are sitting home not doing anything this allowed them to get outside and get reconnected," Underdown says.

Patrick Wickens, 31, was hit with a rocket propelled grenade and lost his leg. He didn't want to leave the house let alone go to college before joining Fairways for Warriors.

"There are some guys you think could never do the things they have done and have just done great things, its inspiring," Wickens said.

That camaraderie and support has given Wickens the courage not only to swing a golf club but try other things.

"There is no limit to what you can do. Like cycling I would have never ever tried to get back on a bike," Wickens said.

Getting their life back is key and what Jeff Kelly decided he wanted after spending time with his fellow veterans on the golf course.

"Without them I wouldn't be at the place I am today. I am at peace with my injuries and at peace with my treatment," Kelly said.

Kelly was injured by a mortar and now preparing to have his leg amputated.

"I am going to be different I am going to live my life to the fullest," Kelly said.

Welcoming words considering 22 veterans a day commit suicide.

"I just felt alone for the most part," Jorge Zapata recalls. "Just driving you see trash on the road that brings flashbacks…you think I-E-D."

But now Zapata has found a brotherhood in fairways for warriors.

"We open up and share those moments and that's therapy that really therapy it keeps us going," Zapata said.

Underdown says it's much more than golf-- they help these heroes with everything.

"We helped Louis replace all the tile in his house, we built a chicken coop for josh, we help with electric bills if they get behind, we help with car we help them get jobs we help them get therapy,"

In fact Fairways for Warriors is trying to raise money right now to build a custom home that is wheel chair accessible. The lot was donated by Winter Park and the house will be built by Palm Harbor Homes.

"It's almost like a blessing in disguise to have been injured because I would not have had the chance to do all the things I'm doing now," Wickens said.

Wickens is in now college and continues to work on his golfing game with the rest of these combat heroes.

So who can join Fairways for Warriors? Anyone who served in combat is eligible and their family.

Fairways for Warriors needs to raise $70,000 to build that home in Winter Park for a local veteran. They are having a fundraiser at Orange County National golf course.

Click here for more information.