Former President Bill Clinton talks with wounded warrior double amputee golfer Saul Martinez on the driving range at PGA West's Palmer and Nicklaus Private Courses on Thursday, January 17, 2013 during the first day of the Humana Challenge golf tournament. Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun
Three wounded warriors are playing in the amateur field of this week’s PGA Tour Humana Challenge golf tournament in La Quinta. Saul Martinez, Dave Romanowsky, and Matt Anderson, who are representing the Troops First Foundation, will be on the course for their third and final round in the Humana Challenge’s amateur competition.
Wounded warrior double amputee Saul Martinez works out on the driving range Thursday at PGA West.
Sgt. Saul Martinez, U.S. Army (Ret), joined the Army infantry in 2006 and was deployed to Iraq the next year as part of the surge. He quickly became a Sergeant assigned to the Brigade Commander’s security detail. On May 8, 2007, his vehicle was hit by a large IED, instantly killing his best friends and severely injuring Martinez.
He became a bilateral amputee who also had a traumatic brain injury. He medically retired in 2010 after three more years of active duty including regular soldier training and serving as a squad leader in a Warrior Transition Unit. He also returned to Iraq in 2011 as part of Operation Proper Exit.
During his recovery he discovered that golf was both therapeutic and relaxing. He and his family live in Montana, where he tries to get out on the course as much as possible.
Before the opening round on Thursday, Martinez was greeted by former President Bill Clinton on the driving range at PGA West.
A 15-handicap, Martinez posted 7-under in the opening round at Nicklaus Private Course with professionals Daniel Summerhays and Roberto Castro, who is a tournament co-leader at -14 after the second round. On Friday Martinez played with Michael Bradley and Jason Bohn and shot 4-under. He is at 11-under for the tournament.
Martinez tees off Saturday at 8:50 a.m. on the 1st tee at La Quinta Country Club. He will play with professional golfers Robert Streb and Steve LeBrun.
Technical Sgt. Dave Romanowsky, U.S. Air Force (Ret), served in the Air Force for 17.5 years where he served as an intelligence operative for 12 years before switching to Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). Before Sept. 11, 2001, Romanowky served a 12-month deployment to Kosovo. Following 9/11 he did two one-year tours in Iraq where he conducted over 1200 ground combat missions.
He worked one year as a demolition specialist for Army Special Operations and as he described “in a capacity to go and catch the bomb makers that were killing or wounding so many of my fellow troops.”
He is a recipient of the Bronze Star for Valor, Purple Heart, Army and Air Force Commendation Medals, and several Combat action medals.
Romanowsky turned to golf as a rehabilitative tool after he was wounded in action with several fractured vertebra. “I am so thankful to just be walking,” he said about his injuries which include other injuries to legs, head, and torso area with severe damage to the lung area and hearing loss in left ear. He spent roughly 4 months in the hospital and roughly 18 months doing rehabilitation in Colorado. He and his family recently moved to Dallas.
“I found that golf is not only extremely fun but acts as a great way to spend time with wife and my two children. I did play prior to being injured but now being retired from the service I’ve thrown myself into it here in Texas,” Romanowsky said.
“I look forward to the great opportunity to play in the Humana and cannot even put into words how thankful I am for the opportunity. Having been nearly killed in combat, I truly embrace everyday of life and this event is almost unbelievable to a be a part of.”
Romanowsky has been Tweeting about his trip to the Humana Challenge via his handle, @Romo9999.
In Thursday’s first round, Romanowsky played with pros Brad Fritsch and Aaron Watkins at La Quinta Country Club where he shot 3-under. Friday the airman, who is listed as an 8-handicap, posted 9-under at the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West with Jason Kokrak and Greg Owen. He is 12-under so far in the tournament.
He tees off Saturday at 8:40 a.m. on the 10th tee of the Palmer Private Course at PGA West. He will play with professional golfers D.A. Points and Tommy Gainey. Comedian Ron White is also in his foursome.
Wounded warrior Matt Anderson shakes hands with PGA Tour player William McGirt after their foursome finished up on the18th hole at Palmer Private Course on Thursday, January 17, 2013 at the Humana Challenge. Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun
After the September 11th attacks, Capt. Matt Anderson, U.S. Army, left college and join the military. He enlisted as an 11B Infantryman and became a Scout/Sniper with the 25th Infantry Division shortly before deploying for a 15 month deployment to Iraq. He promoted from a Private First Class to Staff Sergeant in four years. He was selected to go to Officer Candidacy School. After finishing at #4 in his class, he voluntarily served as an assistant S-3 in planning and operations for 1-66 Armor, part of 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. Later he was given command of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company. 1-66 Armor was the first Heavy Brigade Combat Team to occupy Afghanistan. Their area of operation in the Arghandab River Valley was heavily contested and land mines were a constant threat. The Arghandab River Valley was regarded as the worst area in Afghanistan in 2010. Within the first two-and-a-half weeks, his platoon suffered 14 casualties, diminishing their manpower by half.
His platoon helped with the identification and reduction of multiple IEDs and the improvement of the infrastructure and Afghan/American sentiment within three local towns. One night, they were tasked to secure the Arghandab River from an abandoned town that was rumored to be extensively mined by the Taliban. At 4:16 a.m. then-First Lt. Anderson stepped on the first land mine inside the compound. The explosion shattered his heel into 13 pieces and his ankle into three pieces. He also suffered a fractured tibia, fibula, cubiod and navicular bones with extensive vascular and neurologic damage.
A few months after his injury, he learned that there was 45-pounds of ammonium nitrate explosive attached to the land mine that did not detonate, had it gone off he would not have survived the blast. Two other soldiers were injured by land mines within the same compound.
Anderson has had 24 procedures and operations on his right leg. His leg was salvaged and with the help of a brace, he remains an active duty Army officer and was promoted to Captain.
He said he loves to compete as an athlete and perform the job that he loves. He says that his men are his inspiration to always strive to become a better leader, to work harder, and not let pain or physical limitations stop him from anything.
Anderson is a recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
He opened the tournament 6-under on Thursday at the Palmer Private Course of PGA West with tour pros Brian Harman and William McGirt. On Friday he played at La Quinta Country Club and played 2-under for the round with pros Ryo Ishikawa and Lucas Glover. He is listed as an 8-handicap and is currently 8-under for the tournament.
Anderson tees off Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on the 1st tee of the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West. He will play with professional golfers Ben Kohles and Alistair Presnell. Singer Dave Brock is also in his foursome.
*Tournament officials provided biographical data for each wounded warrior.