Clubs Fore Veterans Organization Gaining Momentum
By Spencer Timkey
When you’re out on the golf course with your friends, nothing can go wrong. The sun is shining, you’re high-fiving after sinking birdie putts and at that moment, very little matters. Regardless of how you play (this isn’t the Tour, you should be enjoying yourself!), there are few things that beat out a round of golf.
That’s the life mantra Ellicottville’s Dan Busekist has adopted. An avid golfer and lover of the game, he founded ‘Clubs Fore Veterans’ last year, a non-profit that donates gently used sets of clubs to our nation’s veterans.
“Last summer, Anj (Anjanette Nicolazzo, Busekist’s girlfriend) and myself were talking about things going on around town. I had a bunch of clubs I wasn’t using anymore, and didn’t know what to do with them. We went online searching for organizations I could donate to, and there wasn’t really anything locally. We had also been talking about doing some non-profit, so I said ‘I’ll do this myself’.”
Clubs Fore Veterans was born. Busekist and Nicolazzo researched what they needed to do to get the ball rolling, and determined that something this unique could really take off. Everyone wants to support a veteran – especially Busekist.
“I’ve been in the National Guard for the past four years,” he told me. “A lot of my friends are military guys. They’ve all been deployed and have been through some stuff. Friends at bases tell me that the best part of their week is the four hours they spend on the golf course. There are no issues, no distractions. Just golf and friends.”
Now in its sophomore summer, Busekist and Nicolazzo are turning the heat up. After linking a couple vets with clubs last summer, the groundwork has been laid to expand. They’re attempting to collect more kids clubs to push the family aspect of the sport.
“When you think about golf, it really is an awesome bonding experience,” Busekist said. “When these moms and dads come home from overseas, they haven’t seen their kids. What better way to spend time with them than on the golf course, learning (or improving) their golf games?”
Busekist knew that there are tons of veterans who would love to learn how to play golf. But they don’t have the means or the know-how to get started.
“If I can provide them with clubs to play with, that’s half of it,” he said. “Our next goal is reaching out to some courses around the Western New York area to see if there’s a night of the week they’d be willing to offer discounted rates to veterans. That way, we’ve got new golfers and are continuing the mission of the NPO.”
Busekist and Nicolazzo, at the onset of founding, figured that acquiring 5-6 sets of clubs would be a good start. Keeping the expectations low and being realistic about numbers is a smart move for any new NPO. That is, until Holiday Valley’s PGA Pro Steve Carney got involved.
“I collect clubs from people that retire, or trade-ins – many different places,” Carney said. “I give them to kids, service groups, people that can’t afford them. When Dan approached me, I knew this was a great cause.”
Last summer, Carney donated 30 (thirty!) sets of clubs, which for Busekist, was an incredible gesture and huge for the initial setup for the organization.
“It’s way beyond what we initially thought we’d have,” Busekist said. “It’s going to enable us to give them away and (hopefully) not say no to anybody. Steve Jacobson donated the first set, which we gave away … everything they needed to get started. As the word’s gotten out, more and more people have reached out to us.”
Clubs Fore Veterans has its hands on plenty of irons, but is in need of putters, wedges, woods and bags.
Busekist made sure to give a lot of credit to Nicolazzo, who’s been his PR whiz. She also coined the moniker “Every Club Counts” – which, when you think about it, is absolutely spot on.
“We’ll take anything,” Busekist said. “That’s why the slogan works so well. It doesn’t matter if the clubs are 20-years-old … everything matters. It really sums up what we’re trying to do as an organization.”
Clubs Fore Veterans plans to do an event this summer, but that’s still in the developmental stages.
If you’re a veteran and want to get started on the golf course, the best way to get a hold of Clubs Fore Veterans is on Facebook. Busekist will meet with you (he asks that you bring your DD 214) and get you started. If you want to donate, send them a message and they’ll arrange a pick-up/drop-off.
“I love to golf. It’s my absolute favorite hobby,” he said. “I would golf seven days a week if I could make any money at it (laughs). I’m a huge supporter of the game, and of helping our nation’s veterans. This is a way I can give back to them while supporting the thing I love.”