Trevose resident John Carpineta never looks for recognition or praise. But his vital work helping veterans improve their mental and physical health through the game of golf is something that many are taking notice of.
Over the past several years, The Times has featured Carpineta on numerous occasions. Three times, he took home the PGA Patriot Award for the Philadelphia section and, in 2019, earned Golf Professional of the Year.
Now, he has another accolade to add to his collection: the 2023 national Patriot Award. This honor goes to a PGA Professional who personifies patriotism through the game of golf, and demonstrates unwavering commitment and dedication to the men and women who have valiantly served and protected the United States.
All 41 section winners of the Patriot Award are eligible to submit a nomination for the national title. Carpineta entered himself all three times and even made it to the top five, but this is the first time he “got the big kahuna.”
The majority of Carpineta’s work is done out of the Bensalem Township Country Club, where he has co-chaired one of the PGA HOPE (Helping Out Patriots Everywhere) programs of the Philadelphia chapter since 2016. For several weeks, veterans enjoy instructional golf clinics, friendly competition and camaraderie with their fellow soldiers.
For Carpineta, seeing the program steadily grow is unprecedented given its humble beginnings at Cedarbrook Country Club only a few years ago.
“And now it’s expanded into eight chapters. It’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s in four states.”
Still, Bensalem boasts the largest turnout with 75 participants. Chairs of the other seven locations know that Carpineta is their “go-to guy” for anything, whether they need more equipment (all of which is provided free) or instructors.
At 81 years old, Carpineta has no plans to stop helping his fellow veterans (he was drafted into the Army at 23) anytime soon. He works to make PGA HOPE at Bensalem a welcoming environment for all, regardless of age, experience, ability or gender. As long as someone served, they can reap the benefits of the program.
“It gives them a chance to have special time where they completely forget about the unfavorable things that happened when they served, be it combat or an accident or a promotion that they should’ve got. When they’re out there on the golf course, they can always get away from it,” said Carpineta. “It’s a mental benefit. They’re having so much fun with the golf, competing with each other. And they’re actually with their comrades, ones they know they can talk to and share with.”
Additionally, Carpineta invites PTSD specialists from Bristol’s Bucks County Vet Center to attend the sessions. Instead of waiting months for an appointment, veterans can discuss their concerns while battling the doctor in a friendly game of golf.
If someone told a 20-something Carpineta that he’d one day be an award-winning PGA Member, he probably would’ve laughed. When he was drafted into the Army in 1964, he didn’t really have an interest in the sport. Before leaving civilian life behind, he played bass for The Esquire Boys, whose guitar tune “Caravan” made it to No. 17 in the nation.
But upon his arrival at Fort Gordon (now Fort Eisenhower) in Augusta, Georgia, his first sergeant ordered him to attend the 28th Masters Tournament. Carpineta obliged and quickly became a proud member of Arnie’s Army — the military fan base of four-time winner Arnold Palmer.
Carpineta was hooked and, even after retiring from the Army, returned several times for the Masters. In fact, he earned his own PGA Membership at the age of 63.
“I call it a ‘Cinder-fella story.’ I never dreamt that I would be going back to Augusta, Georgia 43 years later with a PGA Card,” he said.
Golf ultimately changed his life for the better, and now, he hopes it can do the same for other veterans. A major goal of Carpineta’s is to reduce veteran suicide statistics, which he said currently averages 17 a day, down from the previous 22.
“Which doesn’t sound great,” he admitted. “But if you think of those six veterans each day who are still with us, times 365, that’s terrific. We want to get it down more and we can do it.”
Although Carpineta’s name is on the Patriot Award, he’s all about the “we” rather than “me.” He thanked Head Golf Professional Jim Bogan and secretary Kelly Newhouse for being instrumental in the growth of the PGA HOPE program. He also thanked his fellow pros who assist in teaching the veterans each session.
“It’s our award. I can’t say that enough times,” said Carpineta. “It’s everybody’s award. I’m proud and I definitely want to share it.”
For more information on PGA HOPE, including upcoming sessions, visit philadelphia.pga.com/pgareachphiladelphia/pga-hope/ or call 215-886-7742.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com