Wounded Warrior On Path To Dream CareerThe Wounded Warrior Project was founded on the tenets that all wounded veterans should be honored and empowered to lead happy and productive lives after sustaining sometimes debilitating injuries during their service. Through its core values of fun, integrity, loyalty, innovation and service the WWP helps veterans through their rehabilitation process and with the utmost compassion, assimilate back into civilian society. The commitment to “foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded warriors in this nation's history” guides the organization’s focus to not just heal the physical wounds evident on the body, but also the scars left on the minds of these soldiers. As part of this whole-body approach to healing, the WWP and the Professional Golfers Career College continue to team up to provide full-ride scholarships to attend PGCC, and earn a degree in Professional Golf Management.
Presently a junior at PGCC’s Orlando campus, Jorge Zapata, knows the value of a gift like this. He recalls, “The Wounded Warrior Project sent a mass e-mail to all Wounded Warrior Alumni letting us know about the 3 scholarships at PGCC.” And the rest, as they say, is history. The Columbia native immigrated to the United States as a teenager, and throughout his entire life Zapata has been athletic by every measure. As a youngster he took up the national sport, and anything else he could get into. “Being from South America, I grew up playing soccer, but during high school I tried to play almost every sport, but unfortunately golf was never an option.”
Ultimately 2011, would change a lot for Jorge. “I learned to play golf in March 2011. Before then, I only saw golf tournaments on television and always told myself that I would like to learn the sport.” Saying you want to learn to do something is a common enough occurrence, but how often do you hear about somebody wanting to learn something and then taking the steps to actually learn it, and turn it into a career, no less? Fairways for Warriors, a non-profit dedicated to improving quality of life for wounded service men and women, by teaching them to play golf, would be Zapata’s first real experience with the game. Zapata says, “Fairways for Warriors was the organization that introduced me to the game. I got one of the brochures during one of my monthly visits to the VA clinic here in Orlando and I got in contact with them. They invited me to come out to one of their clinics and provided me with a really nice set of golf clubs.”
Fast forward a little bit, and Zapata is now a Junior at PGCC Orlando, and remains a stand up guy. Executive Director of the Orlando campus, Eric Wofford, shared that “He’s a really great student, with loads of potential, who really seems to have it all together.” Wofford continued, “Jorge is a really good influence on his peers, and he could easily be at the top of his class,” concluding that “He can do anything. I definitely think he’s head pro material.” It’s not surprising that he is regarded so highly, the former Combat Engineer for the Marine Corps was attached to infantry units detecting and neutralizing Improvised Explosive Devices. In other words, he had very serious responsibilities, which bore serious consequences. On one of his tours of duty in Oraq, he was hit by an IED which shattered the lower bones of his right leg. Zapata was fortunate to have doctors apply a rod and screws to stabilize his leg, after he was Medavaced to the hospital.
His experiences in Iraq have forged tremendous character. That character now serves him daily as he is tasked with playing a physically challenging game of precision, and adapting to civilian life, like every combat veteran who returns home. Zapata shared that, “At PGCC I have learned to adapt back to civilian life. I have had to deal with my distrust issues and socialize overcoming the effects from PTSD.” Beyond the PTSD, and trauma of his war, is a bright and lively future that he wakes up to everyday. According to Jorge, “Golf has given me a reason to wake-up every morning with a sense of purpose and a direction. I practice as much as I can, trying to break my own personal records.” Anybody familiar with the President and Founder of the Professional Golfers Career College, Dr. Tim Somerville, will attest that attitude can take you a long way in life. That is the basic and resounding message of Somerville’s freshman course, Attitude and Motivation, which makes it easy to see why Zapata fits in well at the golf college. Dr. Somerville noted in a recent class at the Temecula campus, “If you have anger and frustration, Golf is the only sport that will take your game to the trash if you bring those emotions into it. You have to fully control your mind in order to direct your body.”
One of the golf college’s hopes for students is that by the time they complete the program they will have an eye on the future, and be enriched by the game every day. So it goes, and every day brings Jorge one step closer to senior semester, and then graduation, and then the rest of his life. “My goals are to learn as much as I can about Golf Operations, Club Fitting, and Teaching to help more combat wounded veterans to benefit from golf in the same way that I have. I would like to continue working with WWP teaching golf clinics to our Alumni, and eventually become a General Manager at a golf facility.” And he’s not wasting any time getting that dream underway. “I have organized a few golf clinics for the Wounded Warriors where the students from PGCC help me by volunteering to teach and coach my fellow combat veterans. “