The New Jersey Devils Alumni Association hosted its 15th annual Charity Golf Classic at the Neshanic Valley Golf Course on September 16 in Neshanic Station, N.J. Beyond raising funds for the organization’s charitable endeavors, including youth hockey initiatives and its annual scholarship program, the tournament was also an opportunity to connect with people who have dedicated their lives to service.
Two veterans, Master Sgt. (Ret) Vincent Moore and Staff Sgt. Rodjean Thorman, members of the Salute Military Golf Association, an organization aiming to improve quality of life for wounded war veterans through golf, participated in the days’ festivities, thanks to two spots in the tournament donated by Infiniti.
SMGA first connected with the Devils when Moore, an ambassador with the organization, learned about the tournament and reached out to the Devils hoping to get involved. He gladly accepted the Devils offer to participate, despite the long drive from Baltimore, Maryland, and contacted Thorman to join him.
Moore, 57, first tried golf after developing tachycardia (an above normal resting heart rate) at the end of his active military service, finding it helped him relax and calm down. “My heart would race every time I’d go to a staff meeting,” Moore said, noting that the affliction led to his retirement. “The game of golf gives me a very good sense of peace.”
He learned how to play while stationed at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, where a “young soldier” would ask every day if he could go play golf. Eventually Moore agreed on a light day and decided to join the soldier, swinging his first club one week before his 51st birthday, in April 2009.
For Thorman, golf became a part of her life while recovering from surgery on her back and neck as a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where a founder of SMGA started a program to help veterans learn the game. “Golf helps me out because it takes me away from my comfort zone,” Thorman said. Thorman served as a medic, but was unable to continue following her injuries due to back pain and unsteady hands. “I’ve regained some of my range of motion, but the main part of learning the game of golf is that it helps us communicate…and socialize with a lot of awesome people.” Moore and Thorman were paired with New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center President Hugh Weber, his son, Jackson, EVP and General Counsel Brad Shron, and Devils newly acquired forward Kyle Palmieri. Between swings on the fairway, the veterans and Devils shared experiences and stories. Palmieri quickly found a friendly bond with the veterans after mentioning his sister’s military service as a medic. The New Jersey native also had gifts for the veterans, offering each a signed Devils putter.
“They actually carried us today in our foursome and played really well,” Weber said after the round. “Hearing their stories and how they use golf as a way for them to deal with the stresses in their lives, it brings chills to me.”
While this was the first time the Devils have partnered with SMGA, it won’t be the last. The team is exploring how best to grow its relationship with the organization, which may include connecting with other partners hosting golf tournaments or involvement in the team’s military appreciation endeavors.