Veterans for Vets

Veterans Richard Cruz, left, and Christopher Hopkins are readying for the first Veterans 4 Vets Disc Golf Tournament in Fayetteville. Organizers hope to make an annual event.

Richard Cruz believes getting involved in disc golf has helped change his life.

That’s why the local veteran has organized Fayetteville’s first Veterans 4 Vets Disc Golf Tournament.

Cruz organized the event. He is a veteran and member of the Elk Valley Disc Golf Club based in Fayetteville.

Cruz got involved playing disc golf with a disabled veteran friend, who had been playing disc golf since the ‘80s. The two friends recently played together in a league tournament.

“We are both disabled, and we can’t move at the speed that the league players do because of our injuries,” Cruz said. “After the match, I heard him lose faith in the game that he loved. It broke my heart and I wanted to do something veteran-centric. I wanted to have a veteran tournament where we could play at our own speed.”

Cruz said it just so happens Dynamic Discs – one of the largest disc golf companies in the world – host a winter event across the county called Veterans for Vets that allows players, including those without experience, to play in the winter months while raising money for local veterans’ organizations.

Cruz said the goal of having the tournament also helps him. The friend he decided to organize the tournament for is the same friend who introduced him to the sport when he first moved to Tennessee.

“I was really messed up in the head,” Cruz said, adding he had just returned from a service tour. “I had physical injuries and severe mental issues. I was heavy alcoholic and really angry. This sport was instrumental in aiding my recovery.”

Cruz said it’s about the camaraderie, the physical activity and socializing. It also helped him build confidence.

Cruz credits the sport for helping save his life. “I couldn’t have done it without this sport or without my buddy,” he said.

Cruz has even persevered through shattering a part of his leg while playing.

“I thought I was never going to walk right again,” he said. “But I kept in mind I loved this game. As soon as I was able to walk again, I was out there throwing discs as much as I could.”

He said it helped develop the mentality he needed to know he was going to be OK.

“I want to bridge the gap between disabled veterans and the sport because I know what it did for me and I’ve seen what it’s done for other veterans,” Cruz said. “This is the first time it will be done in Fayetteville and hopefully we can do it every year.”

The tournament, a part of Dynamic Discs Veterans for Vets program, is set for Saturday, Nov. 20 at Don Davidson Park in Fayetteville. Competition will kick off at 10 a.m. and will be a flex start which wraps up at 5 p.m. A $25 entry fee includes prize and winner’s purse.

A portion of the proceeds will go to veterans’ organizations in Lincoln County.

Those who wish to participate can visit https://www.discgolfscene.com or veteransforvets.com.  

To learn more or enter, you can also email Cruz at Richardco18@yahoo.com.