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A Healing Hole-in-One

healing-newsby Chris Warren, San Antonio Magazine

Hitting the links provides San Antonio’s veterans with a unique form of therapy.

Nobody has to sell Dan Pedrotti Jr. on the virtues of golf. As president of Foresight Golf, Pedrotti owns and manages a number of courses, including the Republic on the South Side. But Pedrotti’s belief in the power of golf has deepened recently as he has witnessed the game’s impact on veterans, especially those struggling with physical and psychological challenges. “In time spent together with soldiers turned golfers, I’ve heard some say, ‘Golf saved my life,’” he says. “Not ‘golf is fun’ or ‘golf is a good time,’ but ‘golf saved my life.’”

This understanding about the benefits of golf propels Pedrotti’s development of the Valor Club, a nine-hole course projected to open next year at the former Pecan Valley Golf Course in South San Antonio. The Valor Club is the centerpiece of a $125 million project that began construction earlier this year and will include housing and a retirement village catering to veterans. But it’s on the handicap-accessible golf course where many veterans will see their physical and psychological wellbeing improve.

“There’s so much research about the benefits of competitive sports in the healing process,” says Tom Shaw, the Valor Club’s  executive director and a former fighter pilot in the Marines Corps. “It’s not a session in an auditorium with a bunch of chairs in a circle and a facilitator passing around donuts and asking them to share their feelings. It’s an environment where individuals can compete, which they love to do, and conversation occurs at their own pace and is among a group that has earned the right to be part of the conversation.”

The opening of the Valor Club builds on other efforts to introduce veterans to the healing power of golf. As the Texas director of operations for the nonprofit Fairways for Warriors, Clint Butler is continuously visiting VFW halls and churches to raise awareness about his organization’s commitment to introduce veterans to golf. Vets who complete an online application at fairwaysforwarriors.org can attend a free golf clinic, where they receive instruction from a professional as well as a round of golf and a meal. Launched in 2013, the organization has provided countless free rounds of golf and donated equipment to vets. Butler has seen how golf helps veterans and their families. The wife of one veteran told Butler that her husband had changed dramatically since he started swinging a club. “His attitude had improved 100 percent since he started playing with us,” he says. “The ripple effects for families are amazing.”

Ken Eakes, the executive director of the Military Warriors Support Foundation, also says golf is central to his organization’s Skills4Life program. Known for providing mortgage-free homes to wounded veterans, the foundation also helps combat vets transition to civilian life. Pairing veterans with mentors on the golf course is effective, says Eakes. “One thing we’ve always tried to do is incorporate mentoring with veterans who were injured and are further along in their recovery or with members of the community,” he says. “Watching those conversations is great because these guys are able to talk about things other than injury and war.”

The Military Warriors Support Foundation is considering headquartering its Skills4Life program at the Valor Club and is one of a number of nonprofits planning to work closely with Pedrotti and Shaw to make golf more accessible to vets.  “This whole project is an effort to pay back a debt that none of us can pay back,” says Pedrotti. “But that doesn’t absolve us of the obligation to do everything in our power to try.” 

Foresight Golf Unveils Master Plan for The Valor Club

communitySAN ANTONIO, TX – Today (April 20, 2013) Foresight Golf, LLC, unveiled the master plan for The Valor Club at Pecan Valley, a multi-million dollar development on approximately 186 acres on the city’s Southeast side.

The Valor Club at Pecan Valley will be comprised of seven distinct components tailored for veterans, senior citizens, people with disabilities, working families and children, creating a special new place on the Southside where people of all backgrounds can live, play and thrive (www.THEVALORCLUB.com). Once completed, The Valor Club at Pecan Valley will be the only community of its kind in the United States.

Daniel A. Pedrotti, Jr., president of Foresight Golf, LLC, says, “The Valor Club is a tribute to the 46,000 returning wounded veterans, and to the 76,000 retired military personnel in San Antonio. We are attempting to provide a sanctuary where these men and women can live and play with their brothers and sisters who truly understand their circumstance.

“By providing them homes, rehabilitation opportunities and recreational facilities all in one place, we believe we can contribute to their overall well being, and in the case of those most recently back from war, we can aid in their transition back to civilian life. It was an act of Valor when each and every one of them signed up to defend our freedom; it was another act of Valor when they trained and, for some, it was a field of Valor when they engaged the enemy. Now it is our turn,” he says.

The center piece of the development will be a fully accessible, 9-hole golf course where wounded warriors and people with disabilities can enjoy the sport to its fullest. The general public will be welcomed as well. According to Pedrotti, “The Valor Club at Pecan Valley’s golf course is patterned after American Lake Veterans Golf Course (www.alvetsgolfcourse.com) in Lakewood, Wash., where the specialized design and equipment cater to those with special needs. Military City USA is ready for this opportunity and our veterans deserve it. It will be ‘their’ golf course where the competition will be fierce but the normal worries of pace of play and accessibility will be non-existent,” Pedrotti adds.

Also planned for The Valor Club at Pecan Valley are 252 affordable housing apartments, Masters Ranch, a gated community being developed by HomeSpring Realty Partners at an estimated cost of $24 million. Michael A. Hogan, president, says that 84 units will be constructed as fully handicap accessible. Construction should begin before the end of the year and will create 250 construction jobs with an estimated $10 million in direct payroll with a local economic impact of $50 million. HomeSpring Realty Partners recently opened a similar complex, Woodlawn Ranch, near St. Mary’s University. Today his company owns and operates over 4,000 apartment units.

A $20 million multi-sport complex centered around “The Valordome” is planned on the south side of Southcross Blvd. “The Valordome” will feature indoor sports layouts for a wide range of athletes, especially those with disabilities, where they can train to compete at the highest levels on an international scale. The facility also will include an indoor bicycle track (only the 2nd indoor Velodrome in the United States), an infield designed to suit virtually all wheelchair sports, a full complement of weight rooms, locker rooms and other sports related facilities, as well spectator seating and accommodations for meetings and other mid-sized community events.

Pedrotti adds that the opportunity to compete in these sports opens doors for would be athletes that would not exist otherwise. “We believe kids and veterans will be the primary beneficiaries. And we hope the greater Southside community enjoys the facility as well,” he says.

An outdoor BMX bicycle racing track is included in the sports master plan to complete the complex. He adds, “This component of the plan is about two simple ideas – 1. Kids need more reasons to get out and be active and 2. There are future international level athletes out there, and all we have to do is provide exposure, opportunity and training. Putting these facilities on the Southside makes it even more compelling,” says Pedrotti.

Russ Bookbinder, president and CEO of San Antonio Sports, says, “We are always interested in the addition of first class sports facilities that can enhance the city’s sports offerings for young and old alike and attract premier sporting events on a national level.”

For seniors, The Valor Club at Pecan Valley will offer a 250 unit “age-in-place” retirement campus estimated at $30 million. Pedrotti says, “This facility will not only welcome veterans, but also seniors who wish to remain on the Southside and stay near their family, friends and Church.”

The Valor Club at Pecan Valley is working very closely with The First Tee of Greater San Antonio to establish a new presence. This location will be only the second First Tee location in San Antonio. Mary Carriker, executive director of The First Tee, says, “We are excited to be partnering with The Valor Club at Pecan Valley to offer an additional programming site in San Antonio. This expansion will help us continue to use the game of golf as a platform to teach young people essential and enduring life skills that allow them to handle challenges at home, school and play in a constructive manner.” The First Tee is dedicated to impacting the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that build character, values and healthy choices through the game of golf.

A four story office building is planned for the development on the South side of Southcross Blvd. and will provide space for The Valor Club Pro Shop and Grill, a community center, as well as offices for The Valor Club Foundation, The First Tee and The Military Warriors Support Foundation. Pedrotti says, “Given the scope of The Valor Club, there is a need for a community center where folks can gather and discuss issues in and around the neighborhood as well as a place where they can get direction and help when the need arises. This is a natural extension of the purpose of The Valor Club at Pecan Valley, and it will support the Southside in general.”

In addition to the golf course, The Valor Club at Pecan Valley will have significant dedicated park space, which will retain the green belt beauty of the area. Pedrotti adds that the Salado Creek Greenway South hike and bike project, part of the Howard W. Peak Greenway Trail System, currently ends at the South Side Lions Park. The Valor Club plan provides for a continuation of the trail from Lions Park, through The Valor Club at Pecan Valley property, South under the Southcross Blvd. bridge and to “The Valordome” sports complex.

Pedrotti summarizes saying, “This plan has the potential to positively impact a very diverse range of people. From kids, to veterans, to the people with disabilities and to the retired, it is about hope and inspiration through community and competition. It is a much bigger idea than any of us, but we have the expertise, resources and conviction to make it happen. The Southside, the City of San Antonio and beyond will be better for it. Additionally, The Valor Club at Pecan Valley will be a significant economic generator for the Southside and the entire city. It is destined to become a one-of-a-kind crown jewel for the city and one all of us will be proud to call our own.”

ABOUT DANIEL A. PEDROTTI, JR. AND FORESIGHT GOLF, LLC:

Daniel A. Pedrotti, Jr., is president and founding partner of Foresight Golf, LLC, of Boerne, Texas, and he has been a developer for over 20 years. Today the company owns and operates golf courses in San Antonio, Comfort, New Braunfels, Houston, Corpus Christi, Kyle, Laredo and Pittsburg. Prior to relocating to Texas, Pedrotti was instrumental in the development of over 10,000 lots in master planned communities in Phoenix, Arizona. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in finance from Texas A&M University and a Master’s Degree in Real Estate Development from MIT.