Columbus State golf’s higher purpose
Work with veterans project opens eyes for both coach and team
Mark Immelman, head golf coach at Columbus State, figured he would get involved with Golf 9/12 just to support his father, Johan, a founder of the event along with Col. Ray Horoho (Ret.) and Rich Davies.
Mark and his CSU golf team ended up with so much more.
Immelman and his Cougars participated in Golf 9/12, a simultaneously played multi-course golf tournament across the United States aimed at uniting our nation through the opportunity to reflect on the shared spirit of unity felt on Sept. 12, 2001. Across the nation, events were held to unite communities nationally at a grass-roots level in remembrance of the events of 9/11, to celebrate our freedom and recognize the enduring bravery of our armed forces, police and emergency response teams.
Funds raised locally were donated to first responders in their respective communities, with the remaining funds raised nationally by more than 50 tournaments being distributed by the Golf 9/12 headquarters to the Pentagon Memorial, the 911 Memorial and the Flight 93 Memorial for educational programs. Other organizations that may receive funds include National Armed Forces charity partners like the Wounded Warriors Project (www.woundedwarriorproject.org), Armed Forces Foundation (www.armedforcesfoundation.org), Folds of Honor Foundation (www.foldsofhonor.org) and Tuesdays Children Foundation (www.tuesdayschildren.org).
At the launch of Golf 9/12, Tim Lange, a Wounded Warrior, shared his story with Immelman. Lange earned a football scholarship to Central Michigan but it wasn’t what he’d hoped for. He wasn’t starting and was down on himself. Then the events of Sept. 11 happened, and everything changed.
“He told me, ‘I couldn’t do this [play football],’ ” Immelman said. “The next day he enlisted in the Marines and was sent to Iraq.”
Not long after arriving in Baghdad, the Humvee Lange was rocked when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated. The blast threw Lange and his team 30 yards from vehicle. When Lange looked up, he saw that his best friend had been severely injured.
Lange, fearing more attacks coming, crawled along the ground to his friend, and hung onto him because he’d lost both his legs just below his waist. Lange remembers hanging on to his friend, urging him to survive, which he did. Lost in all this was just how badly Lange himself was injured. The adrenaline surging through him masked his own reality -- he’d lost his right leg in the blast as well.
“To hear him tell a story and how he just did these things all for his buddy, that he had no regard for what his current situation was, it sort of hit me really in my heartstrings,” Immelman said. “I got a chance to meet a bunch of the Wounded Warriors. To meet these young men who are 20, 22, 19, they’re basically giving up everything to go to the most remote, nasty places in the world to put their lives on the line for us.
“I was always wanting to be involved to support my dad’s cause. But when I met these young men, that took it to a different level for me. I came home and said to [his wife] Tracy, 'We’ve got to do something about that, and we’ve got to make it happen in Columbus.' ”
|Golf 9/12 is a simultaneously played, multi-course golf tournament aimed at uniting our nation through the opportunity to reflect on the shared spirit of unity felt on Sept. 12, 2001.|
|Learn more, click here|
And they did.
Also on hand at the 9/12 tournament was Immelman’s brother, Trevor, the 2008 Masters champion, along with teams from Fort Benning, Ga., from first responders and businessmen in the area. The local goal was raising $10,000, but the event exceeded that with $13,000. It is those numbers that made the event gratifying for the CSU golfers.
“I remember my pastor talking about it that you have less deaths, but you have so many people coming back losing an arm or losing a leg, things like that,” Jacob Tickal said. “I don’t have enough money to make a huge difference to the Wounded Warrior Project myself. But we raised a ton of money for the [Golf] 9/12 event. It’s going to change people’s lives. Much the same way 9/11 did for the world."
“This was a nice thing to do, to be able to give back,” said Justin Grice, a native South African like his Immelman. “To be part of something that’s shaped a huge part of this country, that’s defined its last 10 years, for me being a complete outsider -- I’ve only lived here two years -- it’s a hugely eye-opening experience for me. Something that’s good to be part of it. A nice way, a lighthearted way to raise money for people and remember them in the same way.”
And to remember that this is ongoing for the soldiers.
“Tim is the guy that sort of keeps me going,” Immelman said. “We need to keep fighting for Wounded Warriors because people don’t realize how these young men are suffering with addictions to pain medications and stuff like that.
“He’s had 26 operations on his leg. The last time I saw him he said for the first time in years, 'I’m drug-free.’ He was basically living on pain meds. There are young people fighting with these traumas and fighting with these addictions to get them through the day. [Lange] said we have to keep fighting for his guys.”