SAUCIER, MS (WLOX) - It's a relatively new and unique golf championship, and this is its first year to take place on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The second annual Veteran Golfers Association (VGA) Championship teed off at Fallen Oak Golf Club Monday morning.
For the players and the organizers, this championship isn't just about who can get the lowest score.
"We're losing 22 veterans a day to suicide. And we're finding that golf as a sport is creating a competitive fire in people. It gives them something to live for. Golf actually saved my life personally," said VGA co-founder Aaron Ojard.
Ojard was injured in Afghanistan in 2009 while in the Navy.
"I was physically injured but also had the unseen injury of post-traumatic stress and through golf it went from post-traumatic stress to using golf for post-traumatic growth," said Ojard.
He wanted to share the power that golf had to give him the focus and drive he was missing. The veterans playing were from all branches of the military, including several purple heart amputees.
Sergeant Ramon Padilla was injured in 2007 in Afghanistan losing his lower left arm, but not his competitive edge.
"It kind of brings me back to the battlefield a little bit. Because I have my weapon which is my golf club I've got my rounds which is my golf ball and then I've got a target to aim at or shoot at and knock down," said Padilla.
Sergeant Matt Spang also understood the value of playing golf through injuries. He lost his lower legs to IED explosions overseas.
"When I'm golfing I don't think about my injury. I just think about my next shot and what I can do to make my swing better and make my score better," said Spang.
And the championship gives these men and women a chance to spend time with other veterans who understand the significance that a game of golf can represent.
The 2016 VGA championship will be taking place over the next several days at Fallen Oak. To follow scores live online, visit https://www.vgachampionship.org/