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Golf therapy for soldiers

James Gruening taking a solid swing at golf. Gruening suffered severe injuries to his entire body in an explosion while serving in Afghanistan. He was told he would never walk again, let alone play golf. He is always in pain, but golf keeps him going. Submitted photo.

James Gruening taking a solid swing at golf. Gruening suffered severe injuries to his entire body in an explosion while serving in Afghanistan. He was told he would never walk again, let alone play golf. He is always in pain, but golf keeps him going. Submitted photo.

— Montgomery, 25 never thought he’d be playing golf. Football was his game in high school and he was planning on attending college to pursue that sport. Then came 9/11, and his calling to serve.

Last April, Montgomery sustained a traumatic brain injury as well as injuries to his back and right shoulder in an explosion in Afghanistan. He has since discovered the golf program and has taken part inan eight-week course at Fort Drum, learning the game inside and out.

He advises anybody playing golf to practice and said, “When you make a bad shot just forget about it and work on your next shot. If you think about a bad shot, it’ll completely ruin your round. … You just have to clear your mind.”

Montgomery has participated in many tournaments and even won a few, and plans on attending the Golf Academy in Myrtle Beach, S.C. to become a PGA teaching professional.

“Just being able to get out there and take my mind off of everything else, just worrying about my next shot helps me a lot to kind of get over the PTSD and helps me practice using my memory,” he said.

Clinics in the Fort Drum area are helping to get the word out about Albany area clinics that are available through certified instructors like Kevin Canale at Brookhaven Golf Club.

“I thought it was great. I’ve gone through other training, how to teach the handicapped and the physically challenged,”Canale said. “Not only did it help me and teach me a few new things…this was about learning how to deal with different types of limitations and abilities. I’m hoping that this tournament will generate the interest that we’re looking for.”

He added that he’ll spend as much time as needed to get wounded warriors “comfortable to get them out and playing on their own.”

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