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Top golf instructor passionate about helping vets

Spend one minute talking with world-renowned golf instructor Butch Harmon about his Harmon’s Heroes Foundation and you’ll realize this is a passionate endeavor for him.

Sure, he’s made his mark on golf, first as a player and then as one of the best (if not the best) instructors in the world. He won on the PGA Tour and he’s also taught some of the game’s greatest players. From Greg Norman to Tiger Woods to Phil Mickelson to Natalie Gulbis, the best have come to the best to keep improving.

He also has traveled the world teaching royalty. He now calls Henderson home with his Butch Harmon School of Golf located at Rio Secco Golf Club. If you’ve played the course and stopped inside to grab lunch, there’s the chance that players such as Fred Couples or Dustin Johnson may have been at the table next to you taking a break between tuneups with Harmon.

That’s all well and good, but another endeavor has him just as enthusiastic — the Harmon’s Heroes Foundation.

The foundation’s goal is simple: aiding soldiers wounded in war. Harmon has been able to use golf to touch those who have sacrificed for their country.

“These soldiers have given everything,” Harmon said. “Their average age is 18-25 and they’ve been taught one thing: to be a soldier. Then, through no fault of their own, they are taken out of the military without job skills.”

And there’s more to the story.

“There’s also a statistic that is gut-wrenching,” he said. “More Iraqi and Afghanistan soldiers have committed suicide than died in war. That just tears you up. Everyone just forgets about them. But we want them to know we’re proud of them. That we are here for them.”

Enter the Harmon’s Heroes Foundation.

“I made a trip to Iraq in 2007 with David Feherty, Tom Watson and Tom Lehman,” he said. “We met so many great kids over there. When we got back, we talked about really needing to do more for them. We wanted to try to use golf as a tool to help them get back into society. And we can help them a lot. We want to help in any way possible to help them get back on their feet.”

That help has included building houses and having cars specially outfitted for these heroes.

“We have a great many people who have contributed so much,” Harmon said. “It’s not just me. I tell everyone that if you get involved, it touches your heart more than you can ever realize.”

The annual Harmon’s Heroes Golf Classic in Las Vegas, along with the VIP schools at Butch Harmon School of Golf, have also helped give back to veterans. Harmon, himself a three-year veteran in the U.S. Army, knows it’s a sacrifice for these men and women to serve their country. Add that many come back scarred — physically or mentally or both — and you’ve got the impetus for the Harmon’s Heroes Foundation.

“I had two guys here last year, both of them had lost both of their legs,” Harmon said. “We spent a couple of days with them and then had a tournament with them. One of them was on the first tee and hit the most beautiful drive — about 240 yards down the middle. I ran over and hugged him. I had tears in my eyes. And his first words were, ‘I didn’t fall over.’

“It does your heart good to see things like that. I’m just so happy for them that they can feel good about themselves again.”

All of the soldiers who participate in Harmon’s Heroes Foundation loved golf before their injuries. Because of people like Harmon, they can look positively at the future.

“Most of them felt they just couldn’t play again,” Harmon said. “But we showed them that, one, golf is a great tool to help them because they love the game and, two, that they are able to play again.”

Harmon’s giving back monetarily by donating $25 from each “Butch Harmon About Golf” instructional DVD sold. The DVD provides tips and instruction that will help all golfers, from those just getting started to the scratch player.

So while Harmon has long been one of the world’s top golf instructors, his work with the Harmon’s Heroes Foundation has added to a true legacy.

“In the last four years, we’ve probably helped 50 or 60 guys,” Harmon said. “We just want to do everything we can to show them they can be a normal person … to function like a regular person. And golf is one step. It’s great for their morale and shows them they can feel normal in the towns they live in. And that’s the best feeling in the world.”

For more information or to help out, visit harmonsheroesfoundation.org or butchharmon.com.

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