I’m Paul Graham, but my friends call me PJ. I was born and raised in Chicago and will turn 60 this July. I married my High School sweetheart (Debbie) for 40 years. We have three children and two grandkids. I served in the US Air Force for over nine years as a Fire Protection Specialist and Recruiter. When I separated, I was a Staff Sergeant. During my service, I was awarded an Assistant Fire Chief and Master Recruiting badge and the Air Force Good Conduct, Humanitarian Service, Achievement, Commendation, and Meritorious Service Medals. I hold degrees from The Community College of the Airforce, University of Maryland (Military Campus), and Kellogg at Northwestern University.
I left corporate America in 1996 to start my own sports marketing company, which ended up in the startup of a 2nd company specializing in web design and graphic arts. Over the 20 years of operating these companies, we marketed and managed over 800 bowling tournaments and raised above $3,000,000.00 for Chicago area charities.
On October 4th, 2015, Debbie and I were hit by a vehicle while riding our motorcycle. This resulted in the loss of my left leg above the knee and minimal use of my left hand and arm. The two of us have had over 40 surgeries due to the accident. We moved to California in 2017 to be with our 1st born – Nicholle (1 of 2 daughters that also served in the Air Force). I had given away all my golf and bowling equipment to youth organizations and thought that I would never be able to play again.
In the fall of 2019, Nicholle found PGA HOPE at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex and harassed me until I agreed to sign up for their clinic for local Veterans. I am so glad she did, as it has changed my life. I found that I could enjoy the game again and met countless other Vets that could relate to what I’ve been through. Last fall, PGA HOPE selected me as one of the lucky members that had the pleasure of playing with Jason Michael Carroll and his lovely wife, Wendy, at the Golf & Guitars fundraiser. That alone would have been enough, but we were also presented with a beautiful custom PING bag they later filled with complete sets of custom-fitted Ping clubs. I still shiver as I think back to it.
This spring, PGA HOPE posted a listing that they were looking for Volunteer Player Assistants at Haggin Oaks, and I reached out the same day and started the next week. It seemed like a perfect way to thank the folks at the Morton Golf Foundation for everything they’ve done for me and my fellow Vets.
We salute PJ Graham! Thank you for doing what you do!