AT&T Pro-Am: Accessibility Helps Disabled Veterans in More Ways Than One
Behind the scenes at the AT&T Pro-Am, local disabled veterans are helping make this event possible, while also helping themselves.
Far from the crowds and the action on the 18th hole at the Pebble Beach Golf Links, James Bogan is pretty sure he has the best view at this year’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. “You look out there and see nothing but the beautiful ocean,” said Bogan. He’s sitting in his truck in the parking lot on Spanish Bay watching the waves roll in, and greeting Pro-Am spectators as they pull up. Throughout this week long event, he won’t see a minute of golf. “I feel that I am here to give service so that other people can enjoy,” said Bogan. He is one of the countless volunteers who make this charity event run smoothly. He’s a disabled Vietnam Veteran here with a group called the Monterey Bay Veterans. They handle transportation and coordinate viewing areas for all disabled spectators at this golf tournament.
Teresa Bruno Vice Chairs the Special Needs Transportation committee for the Pro-Am. She says they’ve set up designated viewing areas at some of the best holes on all the tournament courses. Volunteers drive golf carts and vans that can transport spectators in wheelchairs. As Bruno assists a spectator, she explains one of their services. “We’ve actually stopped down here to our eighteen viewing area. We have a pick up for a gentleman who would like to go up to the putting green to watch the players putting. So one of our services is to move them around the course to different vantage points so they can enjoy the various areas of golf,” said Bruno.
Helping to make events like the Pro-Am accessible to everyone, but especially disabled veterans, is part of the mission of the Monterey Bay Veterans. John Whitacre is the group’s Executive Director and also head of Transportation and Operations for the Pro-Am. “We’re taking them out on Pebble Beach, one of the most beautiful places in the world. You’ve been able to go out there and visit it. To them that’s a challenge. We can take them in our mobility cart, we can drive them down right there on the course and they get to see the same thing you and I do,” said Whitacre. He says the Monterey Bay Veterans also helps disabled veterans through year round recreational rehab programs that include fishing trips and scuba diving, and by getting them to volunteer at events like this. “We’re the first ones that get to show them what they can do, how they can be active, and that is the turning point to helping them be self-improved,” said Whitacre.
Looking out on his great view of Spanish Bay, James Bogan says ever since he retired from the military, and later a public sector job, he’s been volunteering about 60 hours a week for various veterans organizations. “It’s helps me and others. It helps me because one of my downfalls was back in the day when I was in Vietnam, we didn’t have all this PTSD or treatment and stuff. Our PTSD treatment and traumatic brain injury treatment was getting it out of the bottle. So the volunteering, being busy, eliminates me thinking of going to do something like that. I just go do it. So it helps me in more ways than one,” said Bogan. Beyond the Pro-Am, the Monterey Bay Veterans coordinates similar services at large events throughout the area including races at Laguna Seca and the Monterey Jazz Festival.