SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. (Nov. 2, 2016) – MGM Resorts International’s Fallen Oak played host to the second annual Veteran Golfers Association (VGA) Championship, Oct. 16-19 in Biloxi, Miss. and crowned 15 new VGA flight champions on the Tom Fazio-designed championship course ordinarily reserved exclusively for guests of Beau Rivage Resort & Casino.
Their journey to play one of the nation’s top PGA Tour Champions courses started in March alongside 1,200 other veterans and families with the launch of the inaugural VGA Tour. The VGA Tour consisted of 125 golf tournaments for veterans and family members all across the country. From military courses to private clubs, these golfers competed to earn tour points and advance to the VGA Playoffs. The playoffs consisted of four regional qualifiers at Black Wolf Run in Wisconsin (Central Region), Queenstown Harbor in Maryland (North Region), Anderson Creek in North Carolina (South Region), and Chambers Bay in Washington (West Region).
In total, 82 veterans ultimately advanced to the championships at Fallen Oak – 20 from each regional qualifier, plus the 2015 men’s and women’s overall champions who received automatic exemptions. Fifteen flight winners emerged victorious from three divisions – Veteran, Combat Wounded, and Family. The divisions are further separated into four handicapped flights, and an open handicap Women’s flight.
The 2016 VGA National Champions are:
Overall Men's Champion: Air Force Captain Brandon Johnson - 78, 76 - 154
Overall Women's Champion: Army Colonel Shauna Snyder - 88, 79 - 167
Combat Wounded A Flight Champion: Army Captain Adam Napier - 76, 84 - 160
Family A Flight Champion: Joel Lynn - 82, 86 - 168
Veteran B Flight Champion: Army Sergeant 1st Class Ruel Poliquit - 86, 84 - 170
Family B Flight Champion: Craig Hart - 80, 80 - 160
Combat Wounded B Flight Champion: Army Specialist Samual Grove - 90, 84 - 174
Veteran C Flight Champion: Army Staff Sergeant (ret.) Michael Beringer - 85, 80 - 165
Combat Wounded C Flight Champion: Army Sergeant 1st Class Chris Herrick - 80, 89 - 169
Family C Flight Champion: Patrick McMenomy - 117, 109 - 226
Veteran D Flight Champion: Army Sergeant Jeremy Garcia - 92, 92 - 184
Wounded Veteran D Flight Champion: Army Colonel Glenn Blackburn - 99, 90 - 189
Family Female Champion: Susan Blackburn - 110, 106 – 216
CPT Brandon Johnson, the Men’s Overall Champion, and COL Shauna Snyder, the Women’s Overall Champion, will each receive a custom-tailored, VGA Champion’s red jacket, and will be interviewed on the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive this Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Together with the 13 other VGA flight champions, Johnson and Snyder are invited to play a round at Jones Creek Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., during the VGA’s Tuesday for the Troops event the week of the Masters, and to attend a Masters practice round at Augusta National.
The VGA Tour and Championships remain more about the camaraderie than about competition. CPT Adam Napier, the men’s Combat Wounded A Flight champion, is an Army veteran and two-time purple heart recipient from two IED blasts in Iraq. “I just got out of the Army in July, so I missed that day-to-day action with the guys and getting into a fun setting such as a golf course,” Napier said. “You’re paired with four guys you’ve never met before and it’s like you’ve been working with them for years.”
CPT Johnson, a Minnesota native and Air Force Academy graduate who won the Men’s Overall Veteran Division after sinking a 15-foot par putt on the 18th hole, felt the tournament helped him connect with fellow service members in the relaxing environment. “It’s all about establishing personal connections,” Johnson said. “I’m in the Air Force, and I get to meet and interact with members of the other service branches. We get to do it through golf and friendly competition. It’s amazing.”
The idea of the VGA began when Capt. Joshua Peyton, VGA President and CEO, and two other veterans were recovering at Walter Reed in Washington, DC. The three used golf as a means of escape, eventually becoming close friends and understanding the therapeutic benefits that golf provides. Founded in 2014, the VGA is a national non-profit organization open to all U.S. veterans – wounded, non-wounded, disabled, active duty and retired – as well as to their families, including parents, siblings and dependents who are at least 18 years old.
“We realized other veterans might be out there in similar situations like we were,” Peyton said. “In 2015, we launched a pilot campaign for the VGA. We had 400 members join. After this year, we have more than 1,200 members. We’re growing quickly because veterans and those who support them are seeing the value and benefit of what we provide as an organization to veterans and their families.”
The VGA’s mission is to enhance the lives of veterans and their family members through the camaraderie and sportsmanship of golf. The VGA also focuses on Post Traumatic Growth initiatives to help veterans and families cope with combat-related injuries. Using golf as an alternative activity, these veterans can choose a more productive way to deal with the challenges that impact their everyday lives.
The 2017 VGA Tour schedule will be announced in January at the 2017 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. Veterans, combat wounded veterans and family members who enjoy the game of golf are encouraged to learn more at www.vgagolf.org.
About the Veteran Golfers Association
The VGA is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to promoting the game of golf to veterans and their family members. The VGA develops programs that allow its members to compete, socialize and remain physically active through the game of golf. For more information visit us at www.vgagolf.org.
Images and videos are available upon request, and the VGA welcomes interviews with the Veterans.
About Fallen Oak
The Tom Fazio-designed Fallen Oak epitomizes the quiet elegance found in many of the world’s great golf courses. Joining the heralded Shadow Creek as the only golf courses built exclusively for MGM Resorts International guests, Fallen Oak has earned more than 30 national honors for a masterful design that features dramatic elevation changes rarely seen at a Gulf Coast course. Since 2010, Fallen Oak has played host to the PGA Tour Champions Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic. For more information on Fallen Oak, please visit www.beaurivage.com
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Charles Upchurch, Veteran Golfers Association, (919) 277-1175
Mary Cracchiolo Spain, MGM Resorts International/Fallen Oak, (228) 386-7134