When you’re out on the golf course with your friends, nothing can go wrong. The sun is shining, you’re high-fiving after sinking birdie putts and at that moment, very little matters. Regardless of how you play (this isn’t the Tour, you should be enjoying yourself!), there are few things that beat out a round of golf.
That’s the life mantra Ellicottville’s Dan Busekist has adopted. An avid golfer and lover of the game, he recently founded ‘Clubs Fore Veterans,’ a non-profit that donates gently used sets of clubs to our nation’s veterans.
“Probably around four months ago, me and Anj (Anjanette Nicolazzo, Busekist’s girlfriend) were talking about things going on around town. I had a bunch of clubs I wasn’t using anymore, and didn’t know what to do with them. We went online searching for organizations I could donate to, and there wasn’t really anything locally. We had also been talking about doing some non-profit, so I said ‘I’ll do this myself.’”
Clubs Fore Veterans was born. Busekist and Nicolazzo researched what they needed to do to get the ball rolling, and found that something this unique could really take off. Everyone wants to support a veteran - especially Busekist.
“I’ve been in the National Guard for the past three years,” he told me. “A lot of my friends are military guys. They’ve all been deployed and have been through some stuff. Friends at bases tell me that the best part of their week is the 4 hours they spend on the golf course. There are no issues, no distractions. Just golf and friends.”
Busekist knew that there are tons of veterans that would love to learn how to play golf. But they don’t have the means or the know-how to get started.
“If I can provide them with clubs to play with, that’s half of it,” he said. “Our next goal is reaching out to some courses around the WNY area to see if there’s a night of the week they’d be willing to offer discounted rates to veterans. That way, we’ve got new golfers and are continuing the mission of the NPO.”
Busekist and Nicolazzo, at the onset of founding, figured that acquiring 5-6 sets of clubs would be a good start. Keeping the expectations low and being realistic about numbers is a smart move for any new NPO. That is, until Holiday Valley’s PGA Pro Steve Carney got involved.
“I collect clubs from people that retire, or trade-ins - many different places,” Carney said. “I give them to kids, service groups, people that can’t afford them. When Dan approached me, I knew this was a great cause.”
Carney donated 30 sets of clubs, which for Busekist, was an incredible gesture and huge for the initial setup for the organization.
“It’s way beyond what we initially thought we’d have,” Busekist said. “It’s going to enable us to give them away and (hopefully) not say no to anybody. As of now, we’ve given away our first set to Steve Jacobson - he now has clubs, a bag … everything you need to get started. As the word’s gotten out, more and more people have reached out to us.”
Busekist made sure to give a lot of credit to Nicolazzo, who’s been his PR whiz so far. She also coined the moniker “Every Club Counts” - which, when you think about it, is absolutely spot on.
“We’ll take anything,” Busekist said. “That’s why the slogan works so well. It doesn’t matter if the clubs are 20-years-old … everything matters. It really sums up what we’re trying to do as an organization. Next summer, we’re hoping to do a full-scale event that will include veteran organizations, health counselors, door prizes, etc.”
If you’re a veteran and want to get started on the golf course, the best way to get a hold of Clubs Fore Veterans is on Facebook. Busekist will meet with you (he asks that you bring your DD 214) and get you started. If you want to donate, send them a message and they’ll arrange a pick-up/drop-off.
“I love to golf. It’s my absolute favorite hobby,” he said. “I would golf seven days a week if I could make any money at it (laughs). I’m a huge supporter of the game, and of helping our nation’s veterans. This is a way I can give back to them while supporting the thing I love.”