Jason Michael Carroll had just gotten out of the U.S. Marine Corps, after serving for four years, when he joined some of his dad’s friends for golf one day.
It was Carroll’s first time playing golf, his very first round, the first time he was ever on a golf course.
“My very first time playing golf, I shot a 96,” Carroll recalled of his day at Brevofield Golf Links, located in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
It was years and years ago, but Carroll can remember what the experience did for him.
“I was thinking, ‘Wow, I think I’m pretty decent at this game,’ ” he said in a telephone interview from his home in Raleigh, N.C. “And then I got cocky. The next time I went out, about three weeks later, I shot 120.”
Carroll, a country music star with a number of big hits, has continued in golf – a game that he plays as often as he can.
“There’s some really beautiful spots out this way,” Carroll, a singer-songwriter, said.
“A lot of my friends are members at some prestigious golf courses in the area,” he added, referring to Hasentree, a course in Wake Forest that was designed by Tom Fazio; 12 Oaks, a course in Holly Springs, N.C., designed by Jack Nicklaus; and The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation’s course, located in Raleigh, N.C., and designed by Hale Irwin.
“It’s pretty cool to be able to have connections in those places, where I can go … and see the masterful work by the groundskeepers and the course superintendents.”
Carroll’s connection to golf involves his family as well.
Two of his children play golf, following in their father’s footsteps.
Carroll travels to the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento each year to participate in its Golf & Guitars Children’s Charity Pro-Am & Music Festival. He is also there to play golf and spend time with military veterans through the PGA HOPE and Wounded Warriors golf programs that Haggin Oaks offers.
KNCI 105.1 and the Morton Golf Foundation sponsored the 12th annual Golf and Guitars Music Festival, held in May. It’s a two-day music festival that also serves as a fundraiser for the Morton Golf Foundation, according to www.hagginoaks.com.
“The Morton Golf Foundation funds programs offering a healthy outdoor recreational environment that stresses the building of lasting personal relationships while seamlessly instilling life’s core values for the youth, disabled, and under-served communities of Sacramento. We need your support to continue our mission of helping those in need in the Sacramento area,” according to www.hagginoaks.com.
PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) is the flagship military program of PGA REACH, the charitable foundation of the PGA of America, according to www.pgareach.org. PGA HOPE introduces golf to veterans with disabilities to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being, according to www.pgareach.org.
There is no cost for veterans to participate, as all programs are funded by PGA REACH and supplemented by PGA Section Foundations.
The program, taught by PGA professionals trained in adaptive golf and military cultural competency, introduces the game of golf through a developmental 6-8 week curriculum, www.pgareach.org reported.
PGA HOPE is the flagship military program of the Northern California PGA Foundation, based in Vacaville.
“Since 2015, 750 veterans in Northern California were impacted by PGA HOPE. By the end of 2019, more than 1,000 veterans will have participated in PGA HOPE Programming,” according to www.ncpgafoundation.org.
Carroll does all he can to provide help and support for veterans. He has also performed with USO tours overseas.
“We like to wave our flags as a community. But I think a lot of people don’t really know how to get involved and how to help,” he said. “An organization like PGA HOPE … shows their appreciation. But it also gives these veterans a pastime, so they are not sitting there, thinking about what they don’t have, or things that they can’t do. I think that’s a beautiful thing.”
It was Ken Morton, Jr., VP Retail & Marketing for Morton Golf, LLC and the Event Manager-Golf & Guitars Children’s Charity Pro-Am & Music Festival, who reached out to Carroll, inviting him to Sacramento, to perform and to play with a group of wounded veterans.
“I was like, ‘Absolutely,’ ” said Carroll. “I can’t thank (Morton) enough for this. It’s because of the efforts through groups like PGA HOPE … some of these veterans are out there, learning the game of golf, learning how to handle it and to adapt with their disabilities. And I’m like, ‘Wow, good for you.’
“Being able to be a part of Golf & Guitars has been amazing for me. My appreciation for the event has gone through the roof. I think Ken’s noticed how interactive I’ve been. I think Ken sees that I genuinely do care about the fans that come out there and support this event.”
For the last six years, Carroll has donated his day and foursome to play with four members of Haggin Oaks’ PGA HOPE or Wounded Warriors golf programs, said Morton.
Carroll’s day spent each year with the veterans goes much deeper than golf. He gets to know each player, and by the end of the round, each one has his contact information.
“Everybody that I’ve ever played golf with at Golf & Guitars, the veterans that I’ve played with, each one of them has my (phone) number by the time we are done with the round,” said Carroll, 41.
“It’s something that you’ve got to commit to. For the most part, most of them text me. We stay in touch.”
Carroll said he is also involved in a charity event in Ohio for wounded veterans. Organizers take veterans out on guided pheasant hunts. Sky diving is also offered.
“Some of them are still fighting. You know, the war doesn’t stop because they’re not at war right now. The internal war is pretty intense,” he said. “Some of these people are really dealing with some serious things.”
Links to Freedom, a charity organization based in Lorton, VA, assists with veterans as well.
“Links to Freedom is dedicated to restoring a sense of normalcy to our Wounded Warriors, disabled veterans, their families and caregivers through rehabilitative and adaptive golf programs at military and civilian golf courses nationwide,” according to www.linkstofreedom.org.
Carroll is not the only one who plays golf in his family. He has a son and a daughter who also play.
“I tell my kids all the time: the game of golf … you’re out here playing with your friends. But literally, you’re playing against you. You’re in your own head space,” he said.
“I have a lot of friends that play, and they all want to go out. But there’s moments when you want to get away. There’s so much going on in your head and everything else, that you’ve just got to clear it. I go out to the golf course and hit balls.”
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association, Associated Press Sports Editors, and California Prep Sports Media Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Vintage High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2019.