golf helped war reporter Benjamin Hall recover from a deadly attack in Ukraine

By | July 2, 2024

golf helped war reporter Benjamin Hall recover from a deadly attack in Ukraine

“You give people things to drive toward, and that was one of them for me.”

The center for the Intrepid, part of the U.S. Army’s flagship medical institution, the Brooke Army Medical Center, is a physical rehabilitation facility for amputee and burn victims in San Antonio. It’s not somewhere one would expect a reporter—especially one like Benjamin Hall who lives 5,000 miles away in London—to wind up staying, but once Hall got there, he found something else unexpected: golf clubs.

“It was part of my therapy. They asked me early on, ‘What do you love doing?’ I said, ‘Golf.’ They said, ‘Great. You’ll be back playing golf again,’ ” says Hall, who was lying in a hospital bed and lucky to be alive at the time. “You give people things to drive toward, and that was one of them for me.”

Hall was covering the war in Ukraine for Fox News on March 14, 2022, when Russian missiles hit the car he and two colleagues, Pierre Zakrzewski and Sasha Kuvshynova, were in. Hall was the only one of the three to survive, which is why he has spent every day since feeling thankful despite the devastating injuries he suffered, including losing his right leg, left thumb, part of his left foot and sight in his left eye. During the past two years, he has had more than 30 surgeries (and counting), and in 2022, he spent an agonizing six months in San Antonio in which he didn’t see his family.

Just getting from lying on a road in Kiev to San Antonio was a miracle. Hall was discovered by a Ukrainian soldier who found him only after making a wrong turn. Getting Hall out of Ukraine and to a U.S.-operated medical center in Germany sounds like the plot of a Tom Clancy novel, requiring permission to board a train carrying Poland’s prime minister, a military chopper, special clearance from the United States Secretary of Defense and a former special forces agent identified only by the code name “Seaspray.”

Hall’s top motivation during recovery, of course, was getting back to his family. He and his wife, Alicia, decided not to let their three young daughters know the extent of his injuries until he was healthier. It was at Brooke where the game Hall fell in love with as a kid helped him through the tough time. Once the owner of a 13.0 Handicap Index, Hall progressed from swinging a pitching wedge in his hospital room to eventually taking trips to a nearby driving range. Being mostly laid up gave him plenty of time to think and jot down thoughts for what became a New York Times best-selling book, Saved: A War Reporter’s Mission to Make It Home.

“It’s something that occupied me, and I enjoy doing, and I think it was therapeutic,” Hall says. “If you’re going through something difficult, talk about it, tell someone about it, write it down. Don’t hide from it. Face up to it. Tell someone about a problem you’re having, and you will feel lighter and better.”

Hall, 41, was introduced to golf as a child by his late father, Roderick, who had a hand in developing several golf courses, including Ryder Cup venue Valderrama in southern Spain. However, Hall believes the game—and the connections that come from it—are needed now more than ever.

“We live in this world where we’re always looking at screens. We don’t hang out with people,” says Hall, whose dad passed away two months before his near-death experience in Ukraine. “That’s why golf is amazing. You leave that behind. My friends and I always turn our phones off, or before when I played with my dad. That connectivity is what we’re missing in the world, and we need to get it back.”

Hall didn’t always know he was destined to be a journalist, but he always wanted to travel. Being a correspondent for Fox News has taken him around the world, but so have other activities, including a “car rally” around his 30th birthday in which he and a friend drove from London to Mongolia. Hall fondly recalls cramming his clubs into an old, black Suzuki Jimny and playing along the 10,000-mile journey, including making up his own golf holes in the Gobi Desert.

Throughout a long recovery, Hall never considered abandoning the career he believes so deeply in.

“The stories I’m doing, you got to think about geopolitics and military and what’s happening all the time,” Hall says. “The beauty of golfing is that you can leave all that behind.”

Thanks to top care and amazing resolve, Hall rejoined his family in London earlier than expected after that six-month stay in Texas. I talked to Hall on the eve of the two-year anniversary of his “Alive Day,” a military term for those who escape death during wartime. When we spoke, however, Hall was most excited to talk about another day this past December.

That’s when Hall played the most meaningful round of his life at Royal Sydney Golf Club in Australia. Hall completed nine holes—and played them surprisingly well in his first time on the course with a prosthetic right leg and a makeshift grip caused by his reconstructed left hand. The combination resulted in shorter—but straighter—shots, and Hall happily made his way around the course in a golf cart. Hall had been putting off his return out of fear it wouldn’t go well, but he surprised himself by playing well—and even beating his father-in-law, Kim Meller, for the first time.

“Like a good son-in-law, I was pointing it out very clearly that I was winning. It was great,” Hall says with a laugh about what he describes as a “perfect” day. “What an incredible sense of achievement to know I could do it again, and I was doing it well.”

A month earlier, Hall made an emotional return of a different kind, venturing back to Ukraine for Fox News to conduct a one-on-one interview with President Volodymyr Zelensky, who awarded the reporter the country’s Order of Merit for his “outstanding personal contribution to strengthening interstate cooperation, support for Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity.” Twenty months earlier, the journalist’s world had been rocked, but throughout a long recovery, he had never considered abandoning the career that he had always passionately pursued.

“I wasn’t going to be silenced, and if the Russians were targeting journalists, if they hope the journalists won’t be out there reporting, well, I won’t let that happen,” Hall says. “We will keep coming back. Journalism will never stop. It doesn’t matter what you throw at us. We will keep reporting.”

As Hall’s body continues to get stronger, the man brimming with inspirational positivity hopes his golf game will, too. He anticipates more surgeries—including filing bones growing in his left foot that make it painful to walk—and possibly a more “golf-friendly” prosthetic leg that will allow him to swivel more.

After a few eventful years, Hall is also excited and grateful to be rejoining a buddies golf trip this summer, when a group of friends will go to Portugal to play for their coveted “Big Bluds Cup.” It’s another chance for that “connectivity” Hall loves about golf—and the latest reminder that life, thankfully, is getting back to normal. To that end, Hall has an important message for his crew.

“I say to them all, I don’t want anyone taking it easy on me,” Hall says. “That’s not a victory. I’m winning it properly.”

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