Ray Persinger served his country for 28 years in the U.S. Army, and he now has the opportunity to represent the United States again, this time on the golf course.
Persinger, a Longs resident and pro shop assistant at Brunswick Plantation & Golf Resort, has been selected to participate next month in the Simpson Cup at St. Andrews, Scotland, an annual Ryder Cup-style tournament between teams of 13 injured servicemen and veterans from the U.S. and Great Britain.
The event is operated by the On Course Foundation, which is dedicated to assisting injured and sick service members and veterans through golf. The organization has headquarters in the United Kingdom and Orlando, Florida to service its members in both areas.
The tournament is May 20-22 and includes a sponsor-player tournament, then two days of play consisting of four-ball matches on the New Course on May 21 and singles matches on the Old Course on May 22.
“Going to the home of golf, who wouldn’t be excited?” Persinger said. “We get to play the Old Course a couple times, the New Course once and Jubilee. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime, and it couldn’t get any better than to play with my brothers.”
Persinger, 55, was a member of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and completed a combat duty tour in Iraq in 2005.
He has a number of injuries from his time in the Army, including four herniated disks in his back, and ligament and meniscus damage in both knees. He has been holding off on back fusion and knee replacement surgeries. “[The back] does go out and it does get painful, but they make muscle relaxers for that,” Persinger said.
Like many servicemen who have been in combat, Persinger also deals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and he often plays with other military members who also suffer from it.
“Golf is a big help. I play with a lot of military guys, so it’s our brotherhood,” Persinger said. “We all support each other . . . we’re all there for each other.”
After retiring from the Army, the Maryland native moved from New Hampshire about three years ago to attend the now defunct Golf Academy of America in Myrtle Beach to get into the golf business, and he works in the Brunswick Plantation pro shop about four days a week and also gives lessons.
He had his handicap index below 8 at one time and he’s now listed as a 15 handicap.
Persinger said he has played only about a round per month for the past year – “You’ve got to keep your life well rounded,” he said – but plans to prepare for the Simpson Cup in earnest.
“I’m working on my game right now,” Persinger said. “For 20 days before I head down to Orlando I’ll be working day and night on my game.”
The team will meet in Orlando around Royal St. Cloud Golf Links to bond and train for a few days prior to the event.
Persinger was selected for the Simpson Cup after finishing third at Barefoot Resort in March in one of a five national qualifiers. The winners in each qualified automatically, and Persinger was one of five captain’s picks by playing captain Mike Stafford of Mississippi.
He learned of the Simpson Cup from friend Shawn Whitmore of Carolina Forest, who is the On Course Foundation USA national coordinator and organizes the qualifiers, which this year featured 458 applicants and 73 participants, he said.
Persinger unsuccessfully attempted to qualify last year for the event, which is named for John Simpson, a former International Management Group (IMG) agency executive who helped start the tournament. The event annually alternates between U.S. and U.K. sites.
Whitmore has played on the U.S. team since 2014 and qualified this year but will miss the event because of a recent back surgery. He served in the 82nd Airborne with Persinger and was also his classmate in the Golf Academy.
“He’s a great asset and a great ambassador,” Whitmore said. “It’s great to have him in our organization.”