RIVERSIDE, Iowa – Lonnie Nielsen, whose golf career is marked with success from the club professional ranks to the highest echelon in the game, has become the first tour professional to serve as a lead contributor to the GIVE (Golf For Injured Veterans Everywhere) Foundation.
Nielsen, 55, a native of Belle Plaine, Iowa, and a 1976 graduate of the University of Iowa, will spend the 2009 Champions Tour season heading a “Birdies for Heroes Challenge,” where he will donate $50 for each birdie and $500 for each eagle that he records to the GIVE Foundation.
In addition, Nielsen will donate $2,500 in the event of his posting a hole-in-one this season. Nielsen has made 16 aces in his professional career.
Begun in 2007, the GIVE Foundation has achieved national recognition by The PGA of America and the Veterans Administration for its blend of PGA Professional-led golf curriculum and accompanying life lesson support to enhance the mental, social, physical and emotional well-being of veterans.
Nielsen issued a call to his fellow Champions Tour professionals, Iowa PGA Section professionals competing in 2009 local and area events, and to PGA TOUR and Nationwide Tour members to join in the season fundraising campaign. The GIVE Foundation Advisory Board currently includes former Masters Champion Bob Goalby and Champions Tour standout Jay Haas.
“My heroes are, and have always been, the men and women of our military,” said Nielsen, who competed from 1978-83 on the PGA TOUR, then spent nearly two decades where he captured 32 Western New York PGA Section victories while a PGA club professional in East Aurora, N.Y. “I believe in the goal of the GIVE Foundation, which has accomplished in a short period of time some remarkable success stories among veterans and their families.
“It’s just great to know that the game of golf has played a key role in the healing process. I want to play well this season to help our veterans. I reach out to all Iowa PGA Section Professionals, my fellow competitors on Tour to see who can lead the Birdies for Heroes Challenge. We are in this to support those individuals who have given back so much for our country.”
Nielsen begins the 2009 Champions Tour season after finishing 11th among the top 30 money-winners in the 2008 season, earning more than $1.2 million with nine top-10 finishes. Nielsen was the winner of the Champions Tour’s 2007 Commerce Bank Championship.
The GIVE program is a partnership between the Iowa PGA Professional, the Iowa VA Medical Center and Riverside Casino & Golf Resort. The program received more than 300 applications in 2008 for new students to receive PGA instruction. Louis King of Cedar Rapids, president of the GIVE Foundation, said that the program has been in dire need of funds for equipment and transportation expenses to allow instructors and veterans to meet at the host site for series of classes throughout the year.
“We are extremely honored and proud to have Lonnie Nielsen, one of the great golf professionals Iowa has produced, to lead the Birdie for Heroes Challenge,” said King. “Lonnie represents the best of his profession and the state of Iowa, where people give back and help others.
“The GIVE Foundation has really just touched the surface of aiding our courageous veterans. We are blessed to have a tremendous partnership with the Iowa PGA Section, the Iowa VA Medical Center and our host, Riverside Casino & Golf Resort. With the support of professionals like Lonnie Nielsen, we can look forward to a brighter year for many veterans and their families, who have discovered that golf is a lifesaver and a new-found passion.”
For more information about the GIVE Foundation and the Birdies for Heroes Challenge, contact the Iowa PGA Section headquarters 1-888-213-8265 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The GIVE Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-for-profit organization, with all donations tax-deductible.