GOLFTEC Spokane Coach, Chris Runyan honored as 2020 PGA National Patriot Award recipient

By Sabrina Naccarato

Chris Runyan – Patriot Award – 2020 PGA of America National Awards from PGA of America on Vimeo.

There’s no doubt the last 18 months or so have been challenging. But one thing that’s stayed somewhat consistent is golf. Golf was one of the first professional sports to return to play and golf is one of the few things people can safely partake in.

That’s pretty remarkable to note because golf is more than just a game to a lot of people. People can turn to golf to just get away from whatever’s on their mind- whether it be a pandemic or something worse- like trauma.

One person who knows this better than most is GOLFTEC Coach, Chris Runyan.

Runyan is a Spokane, WA native and after serving in the USMC, returned to Spokane to pursue a career in golf. He then combined his experience in the USMC and golf and turned that into multiple ways of giving back to veterans through golf.

Northwest Golfers for Warriors

In 2011, Runyan created the organization, Northwest Golfers for Warriors which serves to ‘support wounded warriors, local veterans and their families in need by providing an enjoyable means for the golfing public of the Northwest to directly participate in annual tournaments to raise funds in support of these most deserving men and women.’

In its inaugural year, the organization put on a tournament with 110 golfers and raised $3,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Last year, the tournament, the Dan Kleckner’s Golf Classic, generated $87,000, which was donated to 23 different local organizations. In nine years of existence, Northwest Golfers for Warriors has donated over $450,000 to veteran support organizations.

In the past four years, 100% of the funds have remained local. In addition, over 730 veterans and active military who participated were sponsored in the tournament, banquet, and other activities.

“The sole purpose of Northwest Golfers for Warriors is to take the money we raised from the golf tournament and distribute those funds through the community, to other grassroots veterans organizations,” said Runyan.

VETS on the Green

Following the third year of the Dan Kleckner’s Golf Classic, Runyan spearheaded another charitable organization focused on helping veterans.

“After talking with a good friend of mine, Josh Anderson, he told me that these veterans used to play golf, but didn’t know how to swing anymore with their disabilities. VETS on the Green was born the next Spring,” said Runyan.

VETS on the Green (VotG) takes veterans, from any arm of service, and introduces them to their local golf course. These events are held throughout the greater Spokane/ North Idaho area. One of the reasons some veterans don’t play golf besides their disabilities is the cost; cost to drive to the course, greens fee’s and equipment. VotG takes care of all of those needs. 

During the events held by VotG, PGA professionals from each hosting course re-introduced the veterans to the game and help by giving 10-minute lessons to these vets. After the lesson, the veterans go out on the course to play nine holes. Most courses will donate the carts, and the veterans will pay the greens fees. If veterans can’t afford the fees, VotG steps in to take care of the cost.

“The most impactful experience that I have seen from this program is not only the veterans getting to play golf, but they are meeting their local golf course professionals, get to hang out at their local courses and I get the pleasure of watching my fellow PGA professionals get comfortable with teaching my brothers and sisters,” said Runyan.

PGA HOPE – Helping Our Patriots Everywhere

Not only has Runyan dedicated his time to Northwest Golfers for Warriors, but he’s also spending a lot of his time giving back to PGA HOPE. PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) introduces disabled military Veterans to golf to enhance their physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being.

The program is a branch of PGA REACH, the charitable foundation of the PGA of America, which consists of a 6-8 week curriculum, taught by PGA Professionals trained in adaptive golf and military cultural competency.

“[My] favorite part about being involved in these organizations is seeing the veterans who are severely disabled come out and actually play golf, learn how to play golf, and use golf as rehabilitation,” said Runyan.

Chris Runyan, GOLFTEC CEO Joe Assell, Veteran Nate Fisher, and PGA HOPE participant, Joseph Robinson, at the first annual PGA HOPE National Golf & Wellness Week in 2019.

The Patriot Award

Through all of Runyan’s charitable efforts, he’s been awarded the Pacific Northwest Section PGA Patriot Award 2013-2016, 2018-19, and most recently 2020-21 for his work with Veterans. And in 2020, Runyan was honored as the National Patriot Award winner.

Originated in 2008, the Patriot Award is presented at the PGA Annual Meeting and follows the inspiration of Patriot Golf Day founder Major Dan Rooney, a PGA Professional from Broken Arrow, Okla., the award’s first honoree. The Patriot Award is presented by the PGA of America to a PGA Professional who personifies patriotism through the game of golf and demonstrates unwavering commitment and dedication to the men and women who have valiantly served and protected the United States of America.

Chris Runyan and GOLFTEC CEO, Joe Assell

From Runyan’s development of Northwest Golfers for Warriors, all of the funds he’s raised through that organization and the Dan Kleckner’s Golf Classic, his continued work with PGA HOPE, there’s no one more deserving of such an award. We can’t wait to see what Runyan accomplishes not only as a GOLFTEC Coach but as a caring and generous human being whose purpose in life is much larger than the game of golf.

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