The Lower Southampton native was instrumental in bringing the PGA HOPE program to the Bensalem Township Country Club, where he introduces veterans to golf
By Samantha Bambino
John “Johnny C” Carpineta has a lot to brag about.
Not only was the 78-year-old Lower Southampton native the oldest to bring home a paycheck at the recent Philadelphia Section PGA’s FDS Winter Tour, he was also named the organization’s Patriot Award recipient for the second consecutive year.
The PGA Patriot Award, part of the annual Special Awards, is granted to a PGA Professional who personifies patriotism through the game of golf and demonstrates unwavering dedication to those who have valiantly served and protected the U.S.
But Carpineta isn’t in it for the recognition. He simply loves the game of golf, and wants to utilize the sport to help military veterans assimilate back into society. This is done through the PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) program, which he was instrumental in bringing to the Bensalem Township Country Club after its former Horsham space lost its lease.
The program, which is under the umbrella of PGA Reach, is explicitly designed to enhance the rehabilitation of veterans. No prior golf experience is needed, and participants are able to enjoy free nine-hole scramblers and/or educational seminars over a five-week period in the spring. Clubs, balls and other necessary equipment are provided.
“It’s for men and women golfers, disabled amputees,” Carpineta said. “All veterans are eligible.”
More than 70 have gone through the program in Bensalem, receiving guidance and instruction from Carpineta and six other Philadelphia Section PGA Professionals, who cater the sessions to individual skill level and ability.
For Carpineta, a military veteran himself, it’s an honor to share the physical, mental, social and emotional benefits of his favorite pastime with his peers. Drafted in 1964 a week before his wedding, Carpineta was sent to Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia.
At 23 years old, he had never touched a golf club. But that changed when he found himself at Augusta National for the Masters Tournament, which saw the legendary Arnold Palmer taking home the top prize.
After this first exposure to the game, Carpineta was hooked. Once home in 1970, he began honing his skills at the Bensalem Township Country Club, last summer marking his 48th year as a member. In 2003, at the age of 63, Carpineta got his PGA card and last May, earned the status of PGA Professional.
Carpineta’s military and golf backgrounds officially joined as one when he became involved with the Philadelphia VA Medical Center’s First Swing program, a golf clinic for amputee veterans. Once he, along with PGA Professional Jim Borgan and Bensalem Township Country Club secretary Kelly Newhouse, brought HOPE to Bucks County, he knew the two should go hand-in-hand.
“A lot of the amputees are actually in the HOPE program, and I think that was something pretty huge,” he said. “That the PGA recognized the First Swing, and the First Swing recognized the HOPE program, and we blended them together.”
When taking into consideration all of Carpineta’s efforts, his second consecutive Patriot Award doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. Nominated by his fellow PGA Professionals, Carpineta was one of 11 winners chosen out of 140 candidates throughout Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey (Trenton-south), Delaware and parts of Northern Maryland.
“I was very blessed and fortunate to win the award last year and again this year,” Carpineta said. “It’s very flattering and I’m honored, but I want to not sit back on my laurels, so to speak. Passing out additional information besides golf is my goal now.”
Moving forward, Carpineta’s mission is to blend HOPE and First Swing with VA programs to help decrease a striking statistic — every day, 22 veterans commit suicide.
“That’s unacceptable,” he said. “I don’t think we can completely eradicate it, but to have one life spared, that would be 365 per year.”
During HOPE sessions, Carpineta plans to distribute brochures outlining where veterans can seek help for PTSD. According to him, many don’t know where to turn.
“I’m hoping to spread the word that way,” he said.
Simultaneously, Carpineta hopes his age serves as an incentive to younger individuals who are hesitant about giving golf a shot.
“I’m going to continue as long as I can,” he said. ••
The 2019 session of the HOPE program will take place at the Bensalem Township Country Club, 2000 Brown Ave., on Wednesdays May 15, 22, 29, June 5 and 12, from 5 to 7 p.m. Visit philadelphia.pga.com/pgareachphiladelphia/pga-hope or call 215–639–5556 for more information.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org