MALONE — Frank Dorchak has helped nearly 150 veterans who suffered amputations and not-so-visible combat wounds learn to play golf as part of their rehabilitation.
But he is stepping down as regional manager of the New York Chapter of the Salute Military Golf Association to travel the United States and possibly scout new opportunities for golf clinics and tournaments that promote the organization.
The Golf Association helps those who have lost limbs as well as those with post-traumatic stress disorder readjust to civilian life.
Once a soldier, sailor, Marine or Air Force member finishes the eight-week training, each is presented with a custom-made set of golf clubs.
Four-day clinics are also offered at different golf courses across the state for those who can’t make the full eight-week sessions, but free clubs are not awarded at the end of that training.
Classes are free to the veteran as well as immediate family members who may want to learn the game, too.
Dorchak said he is proud of the work the association has done reaching out to veterans and guiding them into an activity they can learn and master.
Three of those who completed the course have honed their skills so well that they have been invited to participate in national tournaments, including the Bush Center Wounded Warrior Open Golf Tournament in Dallas.
“Those tournaments are competitive and really tough to get into, but there’s the proof that it works,” Dorchak said of the association’s training and the participants’ dedication to it beyond the classes.
And those classes will continue to be held at the Wounded Warrior Golf Training Center at St. Lawrence University in Canton, which is close to Fort Drum, where current and future golfers are recovering.
GRAD TAKING OVER
Dorchak recently bought a travel trailer so he and his wife, former Franklin County Clerk Wanda Murtagh, can travel the country.
He said he is leaving the chapter in the hands of Michael Fouse of Malone, a wounded warrior who served in Afghanistan and is a program graduate.
“I like his attitude, he’s articulate, and he enjoys the game,” he said of his successor, adding that association founder Jim Estes “was greatly pleased with my choice.”
Dorchak said he is moved by the gratitude the veterans express for the opportunity to learn golf and their never-give-up attitude in the face of great challenges.
“Some of the guys came up and gave me a great big bear hug and said, ‘We don’t want you to go,’” he laughed. “But I told them I’d still be around. I’ll still be involved.
“They can’t get rid of me yet.”
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