Course work: Hartselle veteran credits golf with helping save his life amid PTSD
Story by Rebekah Yancey
Photos by Tristan Holmes
Any given day of the week, Brad Davis can be found with a golf club in his hand, practicing the sport that he says has saved his life.
Davis is a disabled veteran who struggles daily with post-traumatic stress disorder. He served in the U.S. Army from 2001-08 with the Alabama National Guard. Davis was deployed to Iraq in 2004 serving one tour in the Middle East.
The husband and father-of-three discovered golf a year ago and says his life has never been the same.
“When I’m into golf, it has my complete and undivided attention and when I tell people that stupid little white ball has saved my life, I mean it has saved my life many times,” Davis said. “I’ve gotten into depressive funks I can’t pull myself out of.”
Davis says during those times, being able to turn his attention to the sport he is so passionate about helps ease the anxiety and depression that often feels overwhelming.
“Being 100 percent disabled, finding joy in anything can be a struggle. I find myself in a depressed and suicidal state most days of the week. Looking for ways to help deal with my issues, God saw fit to put golf into my life,” Davis said. “Thanks to the PGA HOPE program, I have found something that really helps. When I am playing, there is nothing else. No sadness, no depression and no bad voices. My therapist has said this often happens with veterans and golf.
Because of this, Davis says he would love the opportunity to join the Veteran Golfers Association to connect with other veterans.
“Golf is the greatest sport in the world because it’s like life, you hit some great shots and they go bad and you hit some bad shots and they go great, but just like in life you have to play it where it lies,” he said.
He continues to practice as much as he can, as it is difficult sport to learn and master.
“Golf is probably one of the most difficult sports because of the time it takes to master twitch reflexes and the mental aspects of the game,” he said. “You have a second from the time you pull that club back until you hit the ball and you have to remember everything you’ve ever learned – and it has to be a reflex – you can’t think about it. If you think about it, you’re going to hit the ball wonky.
“You can get so in-depth with the sports psychology of it,” he added. “I have a seventh-grade education, but I love to read and learn so it has really helped me.”
Davis also struggles with attention deficit disorder, but has been amazed that it has not affected his love of the game.
“It’s an amazing thing. I never stay in anything for very long,” Davis said. “I’m horrible at the game but I’m so passionate about it I’ll eventually get a little bit better.”
The sport that has left such a positive impact on Davis’s life has a hefty price tag attached to it. He has a GoFundMe campaign that will help raise funds for additional play time, VGA membership and VGA outings.
“Being on a fixed income, all support will help,” he said. Couldn’t I have fallen in love with (a cheaper sport) like ping pong or badminton? Maybe croquet, Davis said with a laugh.
In November, Davis participated in two tournaments with other veterans.
“I shot an insanely horrible round, but was so blessed to be able to play on such a beautiful course,” he said.
Davis said his son Kevin was able to attend a tournament with him.
“We had a blast having an overnight boy’s trip. If you know me, you know it’s not good for me to be alone for extended periods, so he drew the short straw. He helped me a lot mentally while we are gone. I hope he knows how much I appreciate and love him. His heart is so big and full of love it makes mine better.
“Lastly, thanks to everyone who has donated to my GoFundMe campaign. You are the reason I was able to do this. It really and truly would have not happened without you. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart. My story is just one of many veterans who find their own ways to cope with things, mine just so happens to be golf,” he said. “Golf with friends is for fun, golf by myself is for my soul,” Davis added. “When I’m out there by myself, I’m just chasing that little white ball and a little peace.”
Davis is very vocal about his mental health struggles, many of which that stem from his prior military service.
“We all know the statistics: 22 veterans a day commit suicide; I fight every day to not be one of the 22,” Davis said.
Donations can still be made on Davis’s GoFundMe campaign. More than 20 donors have raised $1,460 of the $2,500 goal as of publish time.
Davis has been married to his wife Anastasia for 15 years. The couple share three children: Kevin, Parker and Cooper.