- Associated Press - Monday, November 23, 2015

PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) - Cameras were rolling Nov. 16 as more than 80 veterans gathered here for the inaugural Veteran Golfers Association national championship.

Led by Hollywood producer Charles Laga and director Giorgio Serafini, a film crew interviewed the competing veterans and gathered the first footage for a documentary on the role competitive golf can play in helping soldiers suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The documentary, “Operation Double Eagle,” will follow six veterans, all who suffer from PTSD on their journey to compete in the VGA championship, Laga said during a press conference at Pinehurst Country Club.

Laga said the idea was pitched to him by VGA president Josh Peyton, an 82nd Airborne veteran who established the organization here last year.

“Josh is very persuasive,” Laga said. “When he told me about how golf is helping veterans, it intrigued me.”

Through his work on another documentary examining the effects of secondary PTSD, Laga said he was aware of the havoc PTSD can wreak on returning soldiers and on the stigma surrounding the condition.

“What I found was that there was a certain amount of denial surrounding it that I’ve never understood,” he said.

But by working with the VGA, Laga hopes to open some of the doors closed to military outsiders.

According to Peyton, the VGA gives veterans a positive competitive outlet and a social network for dealing with PTSD.

“A lot of times these soldiers don’t know there’s anything wrong with them until their entire world crumbles,” Peyton said.

The film will be narrated by Tom Sizemore, who is known for starring in military films including “Saving Private Ryan” and “Black Hawk Down.”

Sizemore is in Pinehurst this week to serve on a Q&A panel following screenings today of “Black Hawk Down,” the film in which he portrays ground commander Danny McKnight.

Sizemore went through 18 weeks of Ranger training to prepare for the role, an experience he said illustrated the importance of a support network for soldiers returning from traumatic situations.

“I didn’t realize how much those relationships mattered and the difference it makes to those men,” Sizemore said.

Underscoring the point, the actor said, is his own history with substance abuse.

“For years I tried to do it by myself and I couldn’t,” said Sizemore, a self-described drug addict who said he has been in recovery for four years. “It sounds simple, but when you’ve got a group of people to lean on you don’t feel so alone.”

The film is anticipated for release in about a year, depending on how deep into the featured veterans’ lives it delves, Laga and Serafini said. The film crew planned to backtrack after the tournament wrapped up Nov. 18.

The footage captured this week in Pinehurst will make up the end of the final product, Laga said.

“We want to avoid what’s been done before by not just exploring the dark side but showing that there is a way out,” Laga said. “For some, it’s the game of golf.”

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Information from: The Fayetteville Observer, https://www.fayobserver.com


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