Most golfers are weekend warriors, using the sport as a way to unwind and exercise. But for the troops taking golf lessons through Operation Game On (OGO), they truly are just that: warriors. Tony Perez, a long-time resident of Rancho Santa Fe, founded this organization as a way to help rehabilitate wounded veterans. “Having served in Vietnam and coming home to disrespect by my fellow Americans, I wanted to do something for our combat wounded troops that sustained severe mental and physical combat injuries,” Tony related.
Tony has been the official announcer at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines for 27 years. In January of 2008 he recruited a few injured troops to act as the official starters. “Afterwards, one of the double amputee troops mentioned that he would like to learn how to play golf. The others said they would like to as well,” Tony remembered. “I replied, ‘Ok, game on!’ Since every campaign in the military seems to begin with the word ‘operation,’ I named our program ‘Operation Game On’.”
OGO averages 15 troops for 16-week sessions, four times a year. The troops are given free golf lessons by certified PGA Teaching Professionals at the Del Mar Golf Center. After the initial eight weeks, they are taken to Taylor Made Golf to get professionally fitted for clubs and gear. They then return for another eight weeks of lessons. About 95 percent of the troops have never played golf before. Tony recently received the Channel 10News Leadership Award in recognition for his work.
Name: Tony Perez
Community: Rancho Santa Fe
Hobbies & Interests: Cooking, baking, golfing, target shooting
In addition to his work with OGO, Tony volunteers during the holidays. He dresses in his Santa suit, loads his 1963 red Ford Galaxie convertible with toys (donated by the Secret Car Club of Rancho Santa Fe) and takes them to Rady Children’s Hospital in a caravan of classic cars. He is also a member of the San Diego County Honorary Deputy Sheriff’s Association.
Tony lives with his significant other, Susan Horvitz, who also serves on OGO’s Board of Directors. They have been together since 1994. Both of his sons are professional golfers. Although he enjoys cooking, baking, and target shooting, OGO remains his passion. “One of the measures of success of OGO is receiving phone calls, messages, emails, and thanks from the wives, children, and parents of our combat wounded,” Tony said. “They reward me by telling me that their husbands/wives/sons/daughters have taken a 180-degree turn in their lives because of OGO.”