By Bob Denney
PGA of America
New Jersey’s PGA HOPE team shook off the effects of a 13-hour van ride, which was precipitated by a powerful northeastern storm Friday afternoon, and captured a second straight title Sunday (Aug. 5) in the 2018 Secretary’s Cup sponsored by Express Scripts.
Anchored by PGA Professional Pete Stefanchik of Somerset, New Jersey; Ret. Air Force Airman First Class Glenn Hockman of Basking Ridge, New Jersey; and Ret. Army Sgt. Charlie Wilcox of Hackettstown – who drove the van virtually the entire 950 miles – the quintet posted a 7-under-par 29 in the nine-hole scramble event at Whitmoor Country Club.
St. Louis’ No. 3 Team, guided by PGA Professional Jon DePriest, the PGA General Manager of Sunset Hills Country Club in Edwardsville, Illinois, was runner-up at 31.
Begun in 2016 and named in tribute to the Secretary of the Veterans Administration, the Secretary’s Cup nine-hole scramble match brought together 13 PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) programs. The field featured eight from the host Gateway PGA Section along with one team each from the Carolinas, Metropolitan, New Jersey, Northern California, and Philadelphia Sections.
The event celebrates the PGA HOPE program, which uses golf as a rehabilitation tool for military Veterans.
Wilcox and Hockman were returnees from last year’s winning team, and were joined by Ret. Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Harper of Bedminster, New Jersey, and Ret. Army Sgt. Frank Griseta of Little Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey.
“We thank the New Jersey Golf Foundation, which helped us get a rental car,” said Wilcox, 51, who served 14 months in Iraq and now sports a 15 golf handicap. “We took about three or four stops and once we got to St. Louis we got three hours sleep. We got in a practice round off site yesterday, and today finished 7-under. It’s about motivation and pride in our PGA HOPE program and New Jersey. I don’t know if I would be doing what I do today in golf if not for Glenn Hockman. He was my mentor in my therapy recovering from PTSD. Golf is therapeutic for me. It gets me away from the worries of life.”
Stefanchik, the PGA Head Professional at Hawk Pointe Golf Club in Washington, New Jersey, had not met his teammates until last Tuesday. He was one of 13 PGA Professionals who merged with 52 Veterans, in the Secretary’s Cup.
“We got into town at 5:01 a.m. Saturday morning, and none of us slept,” said Stefanchik, 41. “This is a dream come true.”
Stefanchik, who became the PGA Head Professional at Hawk Pointe Golf Club in Washington, New Jersey in February, had been heavily involved in the Metropolitan PGA Foundation PGA HOPE Program in his previous role as the Head Professional at Elmwood Country Club in White Plains, New York.
He was looking for new niche, and found it following a last-minute cancellation from the original New Jersey PGA Professional.
“I’ve only known these guys for a few days, but we are now friends for life,” said Stefanchik. “I come from a military family. This is now one of my many callings in life. I know the commitment that these guys have made. This is one of the best programs that the PGA does. It just needs to grow.”
Among those in the gallery was baseball Hall-of-Famer Ozzie Smith, the president of the Gateway PGA REACH Foundation.
“This is all about giving people hope and an opportunity,” said Smith. “I am very proud to be a part of this, but there are so many doing the legwork. It is all about giving people something to live for. It’s amazing how therapeutic golf can be.”
The Secretary’s Cup also attracted Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, who has worked with many Veterans groups while in office.
“It’s inspiring to be around both men and ladies who have served our country,” said Kehoe. “They are the inspiration for people like me. Golf is an interesting sport, because it is about competition. Everyone here who has served in the military understands what competition was when they went through training.”
Express Scripts Susan Stith, the Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion and Corporate Giving, said that the Secretary’s Cup was a special day in the company’s first year of sponsorship.
“What I saw today exceeded my expectations,” said Stith. “PGA HOPE is about partnership, community and caring. It’s an initiative that is invaluable and we are committed to it.
“Express Scripts employs 27,000, and one in 12 is a Veteran. So, a day does not go by that we don’t think about our military families, our Veterans, and what we can do to best support them.”
Whitmoor Country Club PGA Head Professional Brian Maine said the growth of PGA HOPE in St. Louis stems from a bond. “The Veterans embrace the PGA Professionals,” said Maine. “They feel like they are special, but actually it’s the PGA Professional who are getting the gift of working with the men and women Veterans. Each one of these Vets shares a story and you get to know them. It’s almost like they become family.”
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