The final group of the W.B. Mason Championship pro-am on Wednesday featured Symetra Tour professional Therese O’Hara and three disabled veterans of the United States military. One of the veterans was staff sergeant Mike Downing, who is a double amputee from injuries sustained in Afghanistan.
S&P Consultants, a sponsor of the tournament, purchased the group for the veterans.
“It is awesome that the Symetra Tour and W.B. Mason give us this opportunity to give back to people that have given so much,” said O’Hara. “It is a real honor and I am really looking forward to today.”
O’Hara got a chance to first meet the veterans on Tuesday at the pairings party.
“They were so nice, I got a chance to chat with them at the pro-am party and they have such different life experiences,” said O’Hara. “It puts in perspective what we are doing out here and it seems like nothing compared to what they do so it is a real inspiration for sure.”
Barry Gaynor, now a fire fighter in Boston, was thoroughly impressed with O’Hara and the whole experience.
“Therese was awesome and just so helpful with us,” said Gaynor. “We had a blast all day long and it was just unbelievable. She was outdriving us by 60 yards on every hole.”
Gaynor tries to play golf as often as he can in between shifts at the firehouse.
“Golf is just the most relaxing thing and I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” said Gaynor.
O’Hara was smiling from ear-to-ear all day and even as she walked to her car long after play was done.
“They were so easy to talk to about their experiences,” said O’Hara. “You could tell, especially with Victoria, that she really wanted to play in a professional pro-am for a long time. It was a big deal for her and all of them and it is amazing that we are able to give them this experience.”
Sergeant Downing, who swings with one arm and uses a para golfer machine to get around the course, hit some amazing shots according to O’Hara.
“Playing with one arm, he hit some drives almost 200 yards,” said O’Hara. “A couples times he crushed it, which is just insane. On number three, he hit his tee shot to 12 feet and he was closer than all of us with one arm. It is just crazy. They are such good sports."