The CDGA Foundation, which utilizes the game of golf to enhance the lives of individuals with special needs, veterans and youth, formally celebrated its 75th anniversary with a special event Friday afternoon at Midwest Golf House in Lemont.
Approximately 80 CDGA Foundation program participants and donors attended the celebration, which featured a one-hour trick-shot performance from recently-inducted World Golf Hall of Famer Dennis Walters and CDGA Foundation participants playing the Three-Hole Sunshine Course behind the Midwest Golf House building.
“It shows longevity and commitment to our mission,” said CDGA and CDGA Foundation Executive Director Robert Markionni of reaching the milestone.
“We wanted to hold a celebration to commemorate the 75th anniversary and we wanted to host it at Midwest Golf House,” he added. “Today gave us the opportunity to showcase our programs and the three-hole course we have exclusively available to individuals with special needs, veterans and youth.”
Walters’ performance came less than two weeks after he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in a ceremony at Pebble Beach. Walters, who has been paralyzed from the waist down for more than four decades, wowed onlookers with a variety of trick shots performed while sitting in a golf cart. The Hall of Famer hopes his performances and CDGA Foundation programming for individuals with special needs inspire individuals in similar circumstances to pick up the game.
“If you’re sitting in a wheelchair, one of the last things you think you’d be able to do is hit a golf ball,” Walters said. “I’ve seen it for 40 years like that. If they see somebody else do it, then they think, ‘Hmm, maybe I could do it.’ ”
CDGA Foundation program participants then played the Three-Hole Sunshine Course at Midwest Golf House, which is specifically designed to be fully handicap accessible.
“For me to be able to be part of this 75th anniversary outing is an honor,” said Judy Ruiz, a veteran of the Marine Corps and Air Force Reserves. “This course here is where I first fell in love with the game of golf. It was right here.”
Originally founded in 1944 to assist veterans returning from World War II, the CDGA Foundation has since expanded its scope. The CDGA Foundation annually brings golf to more than 4,500 individuals with special needs, veterans and youth through programs like the Sunshine Through Golf Camp Program, CDGA Foundation Blind Veterans Golf Outings and Youth on Course.
“While a lot has changed since World War II, a lot has stayed the same,” Markionni said. “The values and benefits of the game of golf have remained consistent and allowed us to provide these opportunities for 75 years.”
The 75th anniversary celebration will continue throughout 2019, with more special events and programming. The annual Fore Our Veterans Golf Outing at the Odyssey Golf Foundation in Tinley Park will culminate with a celebratory dinner. For more information on these events and the CDGA Foundation, visit CDGAFoundation.org.