American Lake Veterans Golf Course is a veterans golf course dedicated to providing golf to all veterans with or without disabilities and to all non-veterans with disabilities. ALVGC is not funded by any entity and is totally supported by golf services, donations, and the generosity of our Volunteers who give freely of their time, energy, and commitment to their fellow veterans.
In 1995, all VA golf courses lost their federal funding. To most course operators, that would have been a signal to turn in their ID and call it a day. But for Bruce Mckenty, GM, it was just the beginning.
“We saw how much golf could help the rehabilitation of veterans, and we knew we couldn’t cut off that resource,” says Mckenty, a Vietnam Cobra helicopter pilot and two-time Purple Heart recipient. “We wanted to provide a place of healing, a place of growth, and a place of hope for our veterans.”
Since its founding in 1955, the American Lake Veterans Golf Course has grown to become the world’s only 18-hole ADA accessible golf course, and they cater exclusively to veterans and their guests. What’s more, the course—a 501c(3) nonprofit entity—is run by a team of 230 volunteers who receive no pay for their work.
“Every day, 22 veterans around the country take their own life. Our course offers them a chance to break through the barrier of disability and the numbing restrictions they feel in their lives,” says John Mazzuca, Operations Officer. “It’s like a light at the end of the tunnel finally appears.
ALVGC is open to veterans and their guests. ALVGC is also open to non-veterans with disabilities and has extensive equipment that enables golfers with disabilities to learn the game of golf. When veterans first come to the course they are linked with a certified trainer who does a complete evaluation of injuries and then presents a comprehensive plan to get that person onto the course.
Just a couple months ago, a man with Parkinson’s disease came to the course. He was living in a hospice house and looked like he was on death’s door. They brought him into a training room and put him in a paragolfer [an impaired golf cart]. He hit the ball, saw it go down the fairway on the screen, and the biggest smile came across his face.
“If I can make someone happy just by having them swing a club, then that is my commitment to help them do that,” says John Mazzuca, Operations Officer. “We are a course of courage, because it takes real courage to step out of the pain and difficulty of disability and do something with your life.
“One of our players is a double-leg amputee who was on his way to the VA hospital when he saw our course and stopped by. In time, with the use of our specially-equipped carts and now with his new prosthetic legs, that player is now walking the course and playing bogey golf.
Many of our veterans will share that ALVGC and what we stand for saved their life.”
Thanks to the generosity of Jack Nicklaus (a personal friend of one of the board members, the late Kenny Still), the course recently added 9 more holes designed by the famous golfer to give their players the full 18-hole experience.
Says Mckenty, “There are people in our community that would be dead if we weren’t doing what we are committed to doing. I feel humbled and grateful that I get to get up every morning and be a part of that.”
“There is so much more to our story,” says Mazzuca, “and if you want to find out more or help in any way, please contact me.”
Giovanni “John” Mazzuca
Asst. General Manager
American Lake Veteran Golf Course
9600 Veterans Drive SW
Lakewood Washington, 98493
P: 253-589-1998 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org