The St. Louis Cardinals and the 100th PGA Championship partnered with the Gateway Section to host a PGA Championship theme night at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri on Wednesday, April 25th. Fans were able to take photos with the Wanamaker Trophy, hit birdie balls into our inflatable and enter to win tickets to the 100th PGA Championship.
For many of us the highlight of the night was when PGA HOPE participant, Bill Wiegand, threw out the first pitch at the Cardinals game to Gateway PGA REACH Foundation President and Baseball Hall of Famer, Ozzie Smith.
Here’s a brief Q & A with Bill about his experience…
Question: What was it like to be on the field at Busch Stadium and to throw out the first pitch?
Answer: Throwing out the first pitch was very exciting. It would have been better if I had thrown a strike, but the ball hit the dirt. At least it went straight and as we know in golf, straight is good.
Q: Did you play catch before or prepare in any way for the first pitch?
A: I wish I could have been able to warm up and loosen my arm before throwing out the ball, but that was not an option. I probably would have gotten it over the plate if that had happened.
Q: What was the coolest part of PGA Championship Night and throwing the first pitch to Ozzie Smith?
A: Walking out to the brightly lit field, seeing the fans in red, seeing Fred Bird (the mascot), the media, PGA members and Ozzie Smith – how could there be a better evening than this?
Q: How have PGA HOPE and PGA REACH left lasting impact on you?
A: PGA HOPE has impacted my life in a most profound way by adding excitement back in. Being an above knee amputee, golf is a sport that I can compete in. I as well as other veterans appreciate the time spent by the PGA professionals teaching us the rules of the game and proper technique.
Q: How did you originally become involved with PGA HOPE and learn about what it was?
A: PGA HOPE was introduced to me through the V.A. The golfing clinic starts in the winter months with instruction from PGA professionals teaching the course and having us hitting into nets. After it warms up, we move outside to a local golf course.
Q: What’s your favorite part about participating in PGA HOPE?
A: My favorite part about participating in PGA HOPE is learning all this valuable information and being able to put it into practice. This also provides the opportunity to ask a lot of questions. It’s also enjoyable to meet all your friends every week.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone thinking about participating in PGA HOPE that has not yet?
A: PGA HOPE is a catalyst in returning your life back to normal. Most of our veterans have undergone many mental and physical challenges, and HOPE provides a relief from these pains. We are constantly getting new golfers in, some who have never played golf before (like me). It puts a smile on their face when they succeed in hitting the golf ball. I could never give enough thanks to PGA HOPE for their contribution to helping our vets and to PGA Reach for all their programs in helping everyone succeed in the game of golf.