In her second year on the LPGA Tour, Orlando, Fla. native Jacqui Concolino had the urge to expand on her role as an LPGA player and wanted to get involved in a charity that she could not only help others but use the game of golf to make a difference. After conversations with her manager, JP Marks and short game coach, Kenny Nairn, Concolino wanted to concentrate on giving back to U.S. service members. Nairn sits on the board of Fairways for Warriors, an organization dedicated to providing a better quality of life for Wounded Warriors by teaching them and providing them opportunities to play the game of golf.
Concolino’s grandfather served in the Navy, and she is currently based in Orlando, where the first chapter of Fairways for Warriors launched. The partnership was a natural fit and Concolino was named the charity’s golf ambassador earlier this year. After working several clinics with servicemen and women in Orlando, she wanted to capitalize on the unique experience LPGA events offer.
“I try to get as involved as much as possible and to give back to the warriors who have served us, whether it’s more pro-am things like this or other events,” said Concolino. “It’s eye-opening, rewarding and it means a lot.”
She hosted Fairways for Warriors member, B.J. Jackson, on Tuesday at the season-finale CME Group Titleholders and had Jackson caddie for her during the pro-am. Jackson enlisted in the National Guard in 1999 and then served in the 186th Military Police Company. The double amputee said the best part was seeing Concolino outdrive her male counterpart playing partners.
“It was a fun day.” said Jackson. “It was great to see Jacqui in particular outdrive these rather big guys trying their hardest. But they have a lot of fun with it and it seemed like they really enjoyed the day.
Jackson said seeing the amount of preparation that is required of the players especially at a new course was one of the bigger surprises.
“It is nice seeing the behind the scenes stuff and all of the things that lead up to the actual event,” said Jackson. “Seeing her prepare, learning where to hit and what lane to take and seeing all that stuff. It’s fun for us from the other end of the TV to say ‘oh they just know that course like the back of their hand’ when a lot of times they’re just learning it a few days before and how it’s playing.”
Jackson took up the game when he was 10 years old and thought we would never return to the links after his injury.
“When I came home it was challenge even getting into my house and didn’t even think I would be active anymore,” said Jackson. “Someone took me out and said ‘hey you can still golf it’s just a little different and use a different technique. You’re still able to do it, just not as physical. You can adapt in different in ways. So I got back into it and started playing and continuing on. I hadn’t had a lesson since I was 10 years old.”
He immediately felt the positive effects of the brotherhood the organization created for the servicemen involved. Not only does it give them an avenue to improve their golf games but also to support one another through the transition coming home with both physical and psychological injuries.
“Through working with other service members you really learn about the camaraderie and bond and it’s more than a game to these guys,” said Jackson. “It’s a whole new lifestyle. A lot of these guys said they would never golf in their life and then to get them together as a group and see them out hitting the ball, joking around and having a good time, it’s just amazing. It’s turned into a family event. They get to bring out the wives and kids and teaching them the game so they can go out with their service members and support them in that way.”
“The clubhouse has been a central focus too. Because the game of golf is so fun for these guys, really it’s the camaraderie and brotherhood,” said Jackson. “To have an amputee who was amputated 10 years ago talk to a service member who is ready to be amputated to somebody who just was, or burn victims or anyone with PTSD or psychological issues, it’s a blessing to have that support.”
Jackson said his game is improving and joked that Concolino is a demanding coach at their clinics.“Her clinics are tough,” Jackson said with a laugh. “This is work for her and for her to take time out of her schedule to teach and grow the game of golf beyond the norm is just amazing.”