“Golf gives people a great sense of accomplishment and sense of self.”
That’s the opinion of legally blind Air Force Veteran Jack Rupert who should know.
He’s one of more than 200 Veterans who are in Iowa City this week for the National Veterans TEE Tournament.
“I’ve played golf off and on for 25 years,” the Minnesota native said. “Let me tell you something, it’s wonderful.”
More than 240 Veterans, many of whom are visually impaired like Rupert, will enjoy a week of golf, horseback riding, kayaking, horseshoes and most important — camaraderie.
The independence of playing an individual sport such as golf appealed to Rupert, who despite being deemed legally blind in 2009, maintains a very active life balancing golf, wood working and leather working.
“It’s perfect for people who are trying to get out and be independent,” he said.
Being at the TEE tournament is an inspiration for Rupert, who will meet a number of Veterans overcoming a wide range of medical conditions.
“Events like this provide a lot of inspiration. To see other Veterans who are worse off than I am competing and being active. I figure if they can do it then I can do it,” he said.
Let me tell you something, it’s wonderful.
Previously a local program, this VA national event provides legally blind and eligible disabled Veterans an opportunity to develop new skills and strengthen their self-esteem through adaptive golf and bowling events. Each year, the TEE Tournament uses a therapeutic format to promote rehabilitation, fellowship and camaraderie among participants.
It gives eligible Veterans an opportunity to participate in therapeutic adaptive sporting activities which demonstrate that having a visual or physical disability need not be an obstacle to an active, rewarding life.
The tournament, from September 9 to 12, is hosted by the Iowa City VA Medical Center, with support from community volunteers. The four-day clinic consists of the TEE Golf Tournament, kayacking, horseback riding, and other adaptive sports workshops.
The National Veterans TEE Tournament sprang to life as the brainchild of several employees of the Iowa City Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, along with two visually impaired Veterans from Iowa who were attending the 1993 National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.
These visionaries got together and named the new event, “The TEE Tournament,” an acronym standing for Training, Exposure and Experience. The first tournament was held in June 1994 in Nauvoo, Illinois, at the Great River Bend Golf Course. At this inaugural event, there were 36 legally blind Veterans from six Midwestern states. The event was moved to the Iowa City area in 1995 and has been held there ever since.
The event is now called the National Veterans TEE Tournament, and has expanded to include not only Veterans who are legally blind, but also amputees, those who use wheelchairs and Veterans with other disabilities.
VA is committed to improving the quality of life for Veterans with disabilities.