AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) – What do Afghanistan, Iraq and the golf course have in common? A caddie named Michael Pappas, whose life has been changed by all three places.
“A lot of people get out of service, and they find themselves lost, and they just don’t have that motivation or connection that they used to have,” said Pappas, an Army veteran who served for 14 years, including five combat deployments.
”I did one to Iraq, three to Afghanistan and one to Syria,” he said.
Injuries forced him out of the service, and around that time, he re-discovered his lifelong love of golf.
He began caddying at some of the most well-known golf resorts in the country and realized the healing effects the game could have on him and other war veterans who are making the difficult transition back to civilian life.
That’s when an idea was born. Pappas and two of his veteran friends recently founded a charity called Loops Fore Troops.
“(A) looper was specifically the guy that would do the loop with the golfer,” he said. “Traditional golf courses used to be nine holes out and nine holes back. So you would do that loop. And the guy who was carrying your bag and giving you the information was the looper.”
Their nonprofit aims to put veterans through an intensive training course over a few weeks and get them ready for a potential new profession as a golf caddie.
The ultimate goal is to place them in jobs at courses around the country.
“Hey, maybe you enjoy golf? Why don’t you come learn something new and see if you like it,” Pappas said. “Even if they go for a season or two seasons, they might meet the person who can drive them to their next profession.”
While most golfers likely find frustration out on the golf course, Pappas finds purpose.
It may seem a world away from a warzone, but if you ask him, the lessons learned in the military definitely apply to the golf course, too.
”We’re used to doing physical exercise, we like being outdoors,” Pappas said, “and so getting (veterans) back outdoors and seeing this beautiful scenery, being able to walk and connect with people. That’s the biggest thing for me.”