Veteran's Story: Bill Lev
After almost giving up the idea of ever playing golf again, Bill Lev is on back on course – both in golf and to some degree, in life.
Lev, who lives in the Aptos hills just south of Santa Cruz, credits his resurgence to PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere), a program designed to introduce golf into the lives of U.S. veterans with disabilities to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being.
Diagnosed with Parkinson Disease in 2000, Lev, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam, stopped playing golf when he could not maintain his balance to swing, or walk the golf course.
“I always had a good time playing golf,” Lev says.
Even after undergoing a successful brain stimulation procedure in 2011 that significantly reduced his tremors, Lev did not pick up his golf clubs.
That was until he heard about the PGA HOPE program from a fellow veteran, who invited him along to the clinics at Bayonet & Black Horse Golf Course in Seaside, near the VA clinic at the former Fort Ord where Lev is a patient.
“Everything they said was so positive,” Lev says of the PGA professionals who served as instructors for the spring clinics – the inaugural PGA HOPE series at Bayonet & Black Horse (a fall series is planned). “There was never anything negative. That was great. They were so accommodating to us veterans. Everybody felt so welcome – even one veteran who is blind.”
Born in Roswell, N.M., to an Air Force family that moved around, Lev followed his father into Air Force in 1966, enlisting right out of out of Camarillo High in Oxnard, Calif. After his military service, Lev earned his degree in industrial technology from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and enjoyed a successful career in the Silicon Valley.
Although Lev tries to remain active, playing golf again – on a regulation, par-72 course – has been a special motivation since he started the PGA HOPE program.
“Playing golf gives you a goal,” Lev says. “You’re not just going for a walk.”
While Lev will use a golf cart, he will do as much walking on the course as he can handle.
Which is something that before he discovered the PGA HOPE program, Lev doubted he would ever do again.