USGA FOUNDATION
Finding Serenity on the Golf Course July 30, 2018 By Jordan Schwartz, USGA

Coast Guard BM1 Michael Fusco stands inside the Shinnecock Hills clubhouse before the opening tee shot at the 118th U.S. Open. (Michael Fusco photo)

Clay Merchent playing his tee shot at the 11th hole during the first round of stroke play of the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. on Monday, July 16, 2018. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)
Clay Merchent playing his tee shot at the 11th hole during the first round of stroke play of the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. on Monday, July 16, 2018. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)
Clay Merchent playing his tee shot at the 11th hole during the first round of stroke play of the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. on Monday, July 16, 2018. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

Having served in the United States Coast Guard from San Francisco to Bahrain for the past 13 years, Michael Fusco has had some bad days. Golf helps him deal with the stresses of life.

“It’s absolutely soothing,” said Fusco, who holds the rank of boatswain’s mate 1 (BM1). “I focus on the positive in each shot. It helps me ground myself and builds patience.”

Though some find the quest for improvement frustrating at times, the game acts as a remedy for this active military member.

“I like getting out there and meeting new people,” said the husband and father of three, who is currently stationed at Hampton Bays, N.Y. “I go alone, so I join up with threesomes. It really helps bring me back to reality.”

This was the goal Fusco had in mind when he founded Veterans Go Outdoors (VGO), a nonprofit organization that seeks serenity for active and former military personnel through small outings and adventures.

“Through mindfulness practices, we help them recover,” said Fusco. “Getting them out there and opening them up to talking helps them recover.”

Most of these trips, which adhere to a strict 3-to-1 participant-to-guide ratio, are centered around fishing, but Fusco would like to get the vets out on the golf course someday soon.

He was introduced to the game 10 years ago by his brother, Adam, who is a VGO guide, Coast Guard veteran, father and outdoorsman.

“I quickly got addicted,” Michael said. “I like being outdoors and I like that the game is heavily competitive, but it’s only within yourself. You can set your own pace and work hard to become as good as you can as quickly as you can.”

As a member of the Hampton Bays unit, Fusco was invited to lead the flag-raising group on Thursday of the 2018 U.S. Open Championship at nearby Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton.

“The experience was awe-inspiring and reinvigorating as a service member,” he said. “The opportunity to raise our nation’s colors anytime is an honor. To do it on a large stage such as the U.S. Open heightens the experience even more.”

The Bath, N.Y., native enlisted in the armed forces after a stint in college didn’t work out.

“I was young and inexperienced, and I needed something to help me be an effective member of society,” he said. “The Coast Guard has helped me become who I am now.”

Who Fusco is now is someone who dedicates his life to helping others.

Jordan Schwartz is the creative and content lead for the USGA Foundation. Email him at jschwartz@usga.org.