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How a PGA Member Couple is Sharing Their Love for Golf With New Orleans’ Veteran Community

PGA Professionals Matt and Morgan Williamson with PGA HOPE golfers.

PGA Professionals Matt Williamson (left) and Morgan Williamson (right) with PGA HOPE golfers.

Golf can surprise us with its presence in different seasons. It can also be a meaningful way to spend time. Similar to this, the game can spark an emotional story that leads to a love story. This love spills over into the lives of those in need.
Morgan and Matt Williamson are PGA Professionals who have made golf the catalyst for their lives. 
Morgan & Matt Williamson at the course with their son.

Morgan & Matt Williamson at the course with their son.
Love for the game and love for each other
The couple met while Matt was completing his PGA Golf Management Program at Mississippi State University. Morgan played golf on the team.  “The rest is history,” says Morgan. “We really just clicked and there was something special there that led us down a new journey together.”
Matt and Morgan were married in Florida in 2014. Matt started working as a PGA assistant professional at TPC Sawgrass, while Morgan entered the insurance industry.  Matt’s career took off after four years when he was promoted to Head Professional at TPC Louisiana near New Orleans.
Matt would teach Veterans the game at no cost when they first moved. 
“It wasn’t anything super organized, but I always loved giving back time to those who served,” says Matt.  “My family doesn’t have a lot of military background, but it was great working with the Veterans because they saw the game of golf as an escape.” 
Morgan explains, however, that there was something still missing for her as they shifted to this new season. Morgan felt the game of golf calling her and she felt she needed to respond. 
Morgan Williamson works with a PGA HOPE golfer.

Morgan Williamson helps a PGA HOPE Golfer.
“I really wanted golf back in my life and that’s when the Tournament Director position opened up at the Gulf States PGA Section office in New Orleans,” explains Morgan.  “One thing led to another and thankfully I was able to be back where I wanted – it felt like this was where I was meant to be all along.”  
Matt is the PGA General manager of Bayou Oaks in City Park, just outside New Orleans.  Likewise, Morgan has transitioned into a new role with the PGA of America as a Recruiting & Member Engagement Specialist for the Southeast Region.  Matt and Morgan’s lives have seemingly come full circle, but they still enjoy the initial excitement they felt when they started playing golf. 
“I was able to volunteer with the same Veteran program for a while,” says Matt.  “But then in 2017, the lead professional moved away from the area, and with it, the program fell by the wayside.” 
Matt Williamson leads a PGA HOPE session at Bayou Oaks.

Matt Williamson leads a PGA HOPE Session at Bayou Oaks.
Helping through HOPE
The Williamsons were aware that there was an important missing piece for the Veterans in their community. They decided to take action.  The duo ran across a new initiative appropriately named PGA HOPE – Helping Our Patriots Everywhere – the flagship military program of PGA REACH, the 501(c)(3) charitable foundation of the PGA of America.  The 6-to-8 weeks program covers the fundamentals of golf and how to play 9 holes. It introduces the sport to Veterans and Active Duty Military in order to improve their physical, mental and social well-being.  
Matt and Morgan launched a brand-new PGA HOPE Program in 2018, the Gulf States PGA Section’s first.  They started by hosting sessions at the VA Hospital of New Orleans, not a golf course.  PGA HOPE was able to become the No. 1 charity by bringing the game where the Veterans were already. 1 had attended therapy in the hospital for two full years before the pandemic of coronavirus.  
PGA HOPE participants having fun at Bayou Oaks.

Bayou Oaks hosts PGA HOPE.
As the program grew from five, ten, to over twenty Veterans attending most sessions – Matt and Morgan have since moved the program full-time to Bayou Oaks at City Park.  They do so with a smile and gratitude towards the Veterans they serve. 
“Our time with the Veterans and PGA HOPE are some of my favorite memories on the golf course,” says Morgan.  “They deserve this and we often leave those sessions thinking to ourselves, ‘That was so awesome.’  You just can’t beat that feeling.”  
Matt and Morgan are true to their love of the game that helped them form a relationship.  As their careers progressed, it became more apparent that they had the opportunity to share with others their love of golf. 
“We knew we had to step up and keep PGA HOPE moving forward because there wasn’t anywhere else for the Veterans to go,” reflects Matt.  “Morgan was gaining momentum in her new job at the Section so we thought to ourselves, ‘Why not us?’”  
They were and are still the perfect team.  
Veterans work on their game at a Bayou Oaks PGA HOPE session.

Veterans work on improving their game at a Bayou Oaks PGA HOPE Session.
All it takes is to show up
The Williamsons believe that golf is becoming more inclusive and welcoming.  They are PGA HOPE teachers and understand the importance of being at the forefront to keep these trends moving in a positive direction. 
“Golf can be intimidating,” says Matt.  “For anyone who comes to the game with disabilities – mental or physical – it can be tough to even get your foot in the door.  Now through PGA HOPE, these Veterans are finding that opening the door is so much easier.”  
The Williamsons admit that there was some trepidation at first when starting a PGA HOPE Program because so many Veterans have such a wide range of disabilities. 
“For the PGA Professionals who are nervous about starting a PGA HOPE program,” notes Morgan, “they need to know these Veterans are more similar to your average lesson than you probably assume – all it takes is showing up. It’s important to be a familiar face for them as they try something new.  It’s therapy, and golf just happens to be the vessel.”
PGA HOPE participant getting tips at Bayou Oaks.

PGA HOPE participant receiving tips at Bayou Oaks.
Of the nearly 28,000 PGA Professionals in the country, it’s not lost on Matt and Morgan that they are one of the very few married PGA Professional couples – let alone a married couple leading a PGA HOPE program together.  Matt and Morgan – now parents to their two-year-old son, Micah – have developed an unspoken appreciation for what each other does in their respective roles. 
“To me it’s really cool to have Morgan in these different spaces of our professional and personal lives…we’ve created a really good balance,” says Matt.  “At the end of the day, we help each other when we need it and we’ve just gotten better at it over the years.”
“It all comes down to family,” says Morgan.  “It’s amazing that our son is taking a liking to the game at such a young age so working in these spaces, conducting PGA HOPE programs – all of it has become a family affair.” 
Golf is a family affair for the Williamsons, including their two year old son.

The Williamsons play golf as a family, including their son of two years.
The Williamsons admit that PGA HOPE changes their family.  They say that they have a different perspective on life.  When they arrive in PGA HOPE, the minor roadblocks of their lives or difficult days at work seem insignificant. 
“It’s helped me learn to lead with compassion,” adds Matt.
PGA HOPE continues to make its mark in the Gulf States Section – expanding now to eight program locations across Mississippi and Louisiana. The Williamsons are the driving force behind the PGA of America’s growth in the Gulf States Section.  
“It’s remarkable to see how a simple game can have that big an impact on a person’s life,” says Matt. “And eventually help them get over a battle they’ve been dealing with for 40 or 50 years – that’s the power PGA HOPE can bring.”
This love of golf and family continues to spread.  For some, this may seem like a simple act but it’s clear the ripples are running far and wide for the Williamson Family.

Find out more about PGA HOPE within your community Click here.

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A participant hits his drive down the runway.
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Runway of PGA HOPE