Carl Meyer keeps swinging, and swinging, for veterans
It was 4:09 a.m. when Carl Meyer teed off Tuesday, playing Chenequa Country Club with a glow-in-the-dark golf ball and dodging fairway sprinklers in a motorized cart festooned with American flags.
He finished 18 holes before the sun crested the trees and had 36 in before the rest of us had our first sip of morning coffee. If you want to play 10 rounds of golf in one day, you can’t afford to burn daylight. Or even moonlight.
Meyer, 59, has played a minimum of 100 holes on the Fourth of July every year since 2008 and has increased the total in each succeeding year. He played 155 holes in 2015, 162 last year and, on Tuesday, armed with a tube of Biofreeze for his aching back, he played a staggering 180 holes, finishing at 8:44 p.m.
Impressive numbers, to be sure. But here’s what makes his golf quest truly extraordinary: Meyer has single-handedly raised more than $645,000 for Hire Heroes USA in the 10 years he’s been doing this.
“He’s such a great guy,” said John Matter of Lisbon, a decorated Marine sniper who did multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen and is a three-time Purple Heart recipient. “He’s not self-serving at all. He’s just a good person.”
Hire Heroes USA is a nonprofit dedicated to placing veterans in civilian jobs. Since 2007, the organization has helped 17,000 veterans find jobs, including Matter, who was forced to retire from the military after being shot in the carotid artery and nearly bleeding out on the battlefield. “I had no idea what I was going to do,” Matter said of his transition back to civilian life. “I was terrified.”
Hire Heroes USA placed him in an engineering firm in West Allis, and he now owns two businesses and trains police departments in counter-terrorism.
Meyer is executive vice-president of The Wetrich Group, a healthcare management consulting firm. He did not serve in the military. He does his “100 Holes for Our Heroes,” raising money through corporate and individual pledges and sponsorships, as a way to give back to what he unabashedly calls “the greatest country on earth.”
“There are a lot of people who think I’m nuts,” he said, “but it’s a great cause.”
In the middle of his second round Tuesday, a Chenequa CC member Meyer didn’t know drove out in a cart to find him, took out his chequebook and made a contribution after seeing Meyer in a live television shot on Channel 12.
“Thank you for what you’re doing,” the member said before driving away.
Meyer lives just off the 13th hole at Chenequa and also is a member. The club supports his cause and makes multiple carts available to him (the batteries die); when he catches up to other groups of golfers, they step aside and let him play through. Meyer counts every stroke and bends only one rule — if he loses a ball, he drops and plays on with a one-shot penalty rather than going back to the spot of his previous shot.
His 10-year total stands at 1,341 holes. “Knock on wood, amazingly, I’ve never been rained on.”
However, there was one mishap a few years ago. Early in the morning, whipping around a blind turn on his way from the 16th green to the 17th tee, he ran head-on into a utility cart driven by superintendent Jim Shaw. “He catapulted right through the windshield,” Shaw said.
Meyer did a triple gainer with a half-twist and made a one-point landing — on his shoulder. The front wheel of his cart pointed sideways, suggesting the machine no longer could be driven. A concerned Shaw watched Meyer, dazed and bleeding from scrapes, stagger to his feet. Was he done for the day? Nah. He asked for another cart and played 100 more holes.