The golf course was one of the first public places retired Marine Lt. Col. Justin Constantine felt comfortable with his physical injuries after he was shot in the head by a sniper while deployed to Iraq. But a recent trip to the course left him frustrated after his custom-designed golf clubs — donated by a group that helps wounded veterans — were stolen.
Constantine left three clubs at the driving range after hitting balls at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Virginia, on Sunday. One club was since returned, but two wedges remain missing.
They're custom-made Ping-brand clubs and his name is inscribed on them, given to him at an important point in his life. Ping provides clubs to wounded vets as a way of helping them get some exercise, fresh air and relaxation.
A lot of golfers are attached to their clubs, and Constantine is not an exception.
"Yes, I could go out and buy more clubs, but these meant a lot for me," he said.
The Army Navy Country Club is home to a posh golf course that's a favorite of presidents, active-duty troops and veterans. Many civilians also frequent the club.
The Constantine the idea of another veteran stealing his clubs is especially upsetting to him. Anyone who has enough money to golf at that club should be able to buy their own equipment, he said.
Constantine said he spoke with employees at the range and pro shop in an attempt to find his club. A spokeswoman for Army Navy Country Club said their director of security can help with this issue as well.
Golf became an important part of Constantine's life after he was wounded during a 2006 deployment to Iraq. He was on a patrol as a civil affairs team leader attached to an infantry battalion when a sniper shot him. He wasn't expected to survive, but clung onto life and began to recover.
Lt. Col. Justin Constantine, a retired Marine who was wounded by a sniper in Iraq, recently had several of his custom-made golf clubs stolen while at the Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va. Golf became important to him during his recovery from his wounds.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of retired Lt. Col. Justin Constantine
Constantine said he occasionally golfed before he was wounded, but took up the sport in earnest during his recovery. The golf course was one of the first places he was able to shed the insecurities about his appearance.
"My head was really swollen for a long time and I looked terrible and I didn't really like to go outside very much because people were staring," he said.
Golf became a good outlet during a tough recovery, he said.
"It was very therapeutic to be outside and get nice views and nature and think about hitting the golf ball and not all the other things in my life," he said.
Constantine became a decent golfer in the process — he shoots in the mid-80s.
He said he could have been more careful with his clubs during the trip to the driving range, or he could buy new ones. But the idea of someone, possibly a fellow veteran, re is more to this situation than golf. This stings, he said. There's something about a veteran stealing from a wounded warrior at a well-to-do country club is that's innately upsetting, he said.
While frustrated, he's not looking for someone to get into trouble — he just wants his clubs back.
"No questions asked," Constantine said "I just want them to do the right thing and turn the clubs in. I'll assume it was a mistake."