Living for God in a “Major” Way – Christians in the PGA – Webb Simpson

I decided that I was going to feature Christian golfers this year during all the major tournaments.  Now, I know – the Players

TPC Sawgrass 17th hole "The Island Green"

Championship at Sawgrass in Florida is not really a major.  But is a well know and important tournament in the PGA season.  It has even been labelled the “fifth major” by many around the game – and the course features one of the most well known (and notorious) par threes in the world – the famed 17th “Island Green”.

I am pretty far from a professional golfer, although I do like to go out on a golf course and hack the ball around for a few hours if I get a chance.  But while the 17th at Sawgrass scares most seasoned golfers – It would cost a year’s worth of wages on golf balls for me to put one on the green.  I’d be better suited to keep a snorkel and mask in my golf bag.

I like the Sawgrass course, and since this is a tournament with a certain amount of prestige to it, I thought I would include this weekend among the “majors” and focus on a few more Christian golfers on the PGA tour.

Webb Simpson

To start with this week, we will check out the story of Webb Simpson, currently ranked at #9 in the world.  He has 2 wins to his name and a host of other top 10 finishes.  He finished last season second to Luke Donald on the PGA money list.  While he is not always among the first names that come to mind when challenged to name pro golfers, I believe that he is getting noticed and gaining momentum.  After a 4th place finish last weekend, He may be primed to make a run at Sawgrass.

But one thing that he is known for, if you were to check out news reports on Simpson, is his strong faith, and the integrity with which he plays the game.  As you can read in this article from Chad Bonham at Inspiring Athletes, playing the game with integrity is more important to him than success.  When faced with temptation to “get away with something” we often struggle to do what we know is right.  One of my favorite stories that I read about Simpson was from last year’s Zurich Championship in New Orleans.  Simpson had a short putt on the 15th green during the tournament’s final round.  As he positioned himself to take the putt, the wind moved the ball, ever so slightly.  The rules call for a penalty because the player has already “addressed the ball”.  Simpson called the foul on himself, and took a one stroke penalty.  He would finish the round tied for the lead (that penalty turned out to be the difference, costing him what would have been his first tour victory) and wound up losing to Bubba Watson (you can read a post I wrote about him, here)  in a playoff.  You can see a video summary of the final round, including the penalty, here.

Simpson would go on to win a tournament later last August, and then won again 2 weeks later.

Webb Simpson, with his wife Dowd, and son after winning the Deutsche Bank Tournament last September

What I like about this story is not really the end result as much as I like Bubba Watson. – It stinks to see someone lose out on something that is out of their control.  But that he handled it with class and integrity, calling the penalty on himself, and instead of sounding off and getting upset, he went through proper channels see that  penalty lead to a rule change by the PGA to keep the wind from altering the outcome of a tournament.

Webb Simpson has shown a great deal of skill and class.  I think he will be worth watching this weekend in Florida.  I also like that in victory or defeat, his relationship with God stays front and center.  It would be great to see him win, but I am confident that God can and will use him win or lose.  I am challenged to have the same attitude.  In success or failure, God is always worthy of being praised and always worthy of being #1 in my life.  May my life always reflect Him, as he guides me through the decisions that I face.

Play well this weekend Webb.  And keep shining the light of God’s love every chance you get!

 

And the winner is… Master’s follow up!

What a fun couple of days the Master’s Tournament weekend provided.  From Phil Mikleson’s sick flop shot on Saturday to Louis Oosthuizen’s Albatross on Sunday, to Bubba Watson’s amazing save from the rough on the second playoff hole to win the Green Jacket.  It was an incredibly entertaining match.  I found myself watching the final round at a family Easter gathering, and it drew in some others that were there, too.  We are all casual PGA fans, but when I shared parts of Bubba Watson’s story (which I learned about in my research for a blog post), we were all cheering him on.  His is an amazing success story in that he has never had a coach (he is self taught).

Read the Yahoo coverage  of the Masters here.  You can also check out some of his Tweets. You see Bubba is very active on Twitter and often uses that medium to share his belief in God. You can follow him at @bubbawatson.   Congrats to Bubba Watson.  Great Round!  Entertaining tournament and  thanks for shining God’s light for all to see.

Feel free to share you favorite moment from the Weekend!

Watson's amazing save from the wilderness on the second playoff hole

 

 

 

Serving the Master at the Master’s – Aaron Baddeley

Aaron Baddeley

This is the third post about Christian golfers playing in this week’s Master’s Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.  Today, we will look at the story of Aaron Baddeley.  Born in Lebanon, New Hampshire,(his dad worked in Indy cars with Mario Andretti) then moving to Australia at the age of 2. Baddeley made a name for himself as an 18 year-old amateur when he won the Australian Open tournament in 1999 and earned a special invitation to participate in the 2000 Master’s where he missed the cut by 1 stroke.  He would defend his Australian Open title a year later, but between those victories, he came close to giving up the game altogether.

He began playing golf at age 8 and took it seriously, setting goals of playing PGA tour golf by the age of 21.  But he also had a knowledge and understanding of who God was, and enjoyed sharing about his relationship with Jesus.  In fact, as you can read in this article from Augusta.com, he even tossed around the idea of being a preacher, and still jumps at the chance to tell whoever will listen, about Jesus.

He knew that God needed to be important in his life, but he found himself spending less and less time in church and with God, and more time on the Golf course.  As you can hear in this story on Baddeley by CBN, he knew that he was heading the wrong direction, focusing more on golf and improving his game then he was working on his relationship with God.  And his game was suffering. He was missing cuts, playing poorly, and less than a year after winning the Australian Open as an amateur, he was ready to give up the game for good.

Instead, he turned his focus back to God, and reset his priorities to let God again be number 1.  He devoted more time to studying God’s word, and his game rebounded.  He went on to defend his title at the 2000 Australian Open and has since become a top 20 golfer in the world.
Here is a feature that CBN did on Baddeley:

Hear Baddeley, Tom Lehman and Bubba Watson share their stories at Highland Church in Scottsdale, Arizona by clicking on this link.

Here are a couple of things that I thought were great points that he made in the articles and videos that I used for this post.

He talked about how he thought maybe he would be a preacher, but God called him to golf. And by pursuing golf and intentionally seeking to honor God with his life,  he is getting opportunities to share what God is doing in his life, and challenge others to keep God as a priority.  Isn’t it cool how God works.  He gets to do both!

Aaron and Richelle Baddeley

I also completely get what he is talking about when he says that he has learned a lot about God’s unconditional love through his marriage to Richelle.  Marriage is a great way to get to know God’s character.  When you are dating someone, there are still places to hide the parts of yourself that you are not proud about.  You can still put your best out for your significant other to see.  But when you are married, those places to hide start to disappear.  The “you” that you try to hide from everyone else gets more and more visible and there is nowhere else left to hide.  My wife sees me at my worse and chooses to love me anyway.  She is loving, forgiving and patient with me.  I am learning more and more about these same things from God when I see God working in her to show me these things through her.

 

Leaderboard Update:

The Saturday Rounds have begun.  At the end of Friday, here are the results of the 3 players that I have blogged about:

Fred Couples and Jason Dufner lead the way,  Bubba Watson is tied for 3rd, 1 shot back.  Baddeley and Ben Crane are tied for 11th, 3 strokes off the lead.  It is very close right now – it is promising to be a great weekend in Augusta!

Serving the Master at the Master’s – Bubba Watson

Bubba and his Pink Driver

This is my second blog about golfers that you will see in action if you check out any of the Master’s tournament in Augusta, GA.  Today, we will dig in to the story of Bubba Watson, one of the most popular players on the PGA tour,   He is known for being self-taught, and for his incredible driving.  That is, he is known for his long shots off the tees, the look of his drivers (the famous pink shafts) and what he drives (he owns the original “General Lee” car from the Dukes of Hazard)

Bubba at the Wheel of the Original General Lee

To explain why I am a fan of Bubba Watson, I’ve got a funny story to share about my first ever experience with Golf.  I took a golf class in college, because I wanted to try golf out and see if I liked it.  There are few things that are less elegant than a beginning golfer taking his/her first hacks at the little dimpled ball.  I was as unelegant as they come.  My shots, if they would get in the air at all, would have a vicious slice to them.  So I thought, like all beginning golfers do, that it must be something wrong with my golf club!  (Couldn’t possibly be the golfer could it – I mean I’ve been honing these skills for a full 8 minutes!) So I did what made the most sense.  I took my loaner 5 iron back to the rack and perused the selection for the club that would carry out it’s task of hitting the ball straight.  Well, the only clubs left were left handed, and the one that I returned was a righty.  “Well”, I thought, “It’s not going to be a worse result!” so I grabbed the cleanest lefty club and went back to my spot.  And I found that I was correct.  My shots were traveling significantly straighter.  So from that point on, I became a left-handed golfer (except on the green – for some reason I have more success from the right side – must be all that ambidextrous mini golf training from my younger days)

Anyway, that is a long story to let you know that I take notice and appreciate all the lefties that I see on the PGA tour.  (and there are really not that many of them).  Bubba Watson, though, is a lefty, and as I looked into his story, I came to find out that we have some more things in common too.  We are both competitive, and if we are not cautious, that competitiveness can result in frustration that shows itself through tantrums.  Here is a story from CBN about Bubba Watson and his tantrums that got so intense that his caddy vowed to quit if they continued. For more detail on their conversation you can check out this article by Bruce Berlet found at snegolfer.com.

This part of Bubba’s story resonated with me because I know that I have battled being uber-competitive in my life.  I remember countless times when I would get frustrated and flip out in a small (or occasionally bigger than small) tantrum.  One difference was that most of my play involved pick up games or church league games – not professional vocational competition.  As I write this, I remember a friend of my on a church softball team kinda calling me out for my attitude and behavior.  I didn’t receive it very well.  I dismissed it and continued to do the same things.  It is only here and now, reading this article, that I wish I had been able to take his advice and reign in my physical displays of frustration.  It  would have made me a more pleasant teammate to be around.  Have any of you noticed how important perspective is to things that are troubling us.  Shanking a tee shot on the 2nd hole is not a serious issue.  Popping out the pitcher with the bases loaded in a church-league softball game is not a serious issue.  Good friends can help us gain perspective – and sometimes it requires hard intervention.  Thankfully, Watson listened to the advice offered to him by his caddy.

And that caddy, Teddy Scott, had another special place in the life of Bubba Watson.  Check out this story from Bubba Watson’s website about the part Teddy played in Bubba’s father coming to Christ.  He wrote a letter to Bubba’s dad, Gerry, who was battling cancer and was not a believer in Christ.  Through the letter and the faith-sharing of Watson and Scott, Gerry Watson gave his life to Christ before he passed away.

It is so amazing to see how God works in the lives of his people.  I have seen God at work in my own life, changing me, molding me into the Christian, husband, father, friend and c0-worker I am called to be.  There is still a lot of work to do, but He is faithful to work it out in His way.  I love to see how God is working in the lives of others, too.  That is the heartbeat behind this blog. I wish success to come to those that I write about – but success in God’s eyes.  A chance to live life out loud for Him and let others see and know what He is doing in their lives.  I hope Bubba Watson and his story spoke to you as they did to me.

And congratulations to Bubba and his wife Angie, who recently (like 2 weeks ago) adopted a baby boy!

Leaderboard Check:

At the end of day 1 of the Masters, Lee Westwood leads.  As far as the guys that I have blogged about…  Watson and Ben Crane are both currently tied for 4th.  We’ll check in tomorrow to see how round 2 goes.

 

Serving the Master at the Master’s – Ben Crane

The Master’s Championship is happening this week in Augusta, Georgia.  It is one of the great sporting events each year.  The Master’s has an unmatched blend of a great competition and austere history and tradition.  It is one of the PGA’s 4 major tournaments, but the only one that happens on the same course every year, and as such, it has a certain pomp that draws even casual gold fans to join the die hard enthusiasts.

This year, I am going to (hopefully) spend the next few days highlighting some members of this year’s field that are among the best golfers in the world, but also that have a relationship with God that they rely on to carry through the good and the hard times.  We will begin with Oregon native, Ben Crane.

As I looked in to his story, I found these facts and stats about his golf game.

He has 7 wins as a pro (4 on the PGA, 3 on other pro tours). The most recent coming last October – according to Wikipedia, it was the day before his daughter Saylor was born.

He has finished as high as 9th (tie) in a major, and his best showing at the Master’s is a tie for 25th.  He is known as one of the slowest, most deliberate players on the PGA tour, and also known as one of the funniest and most likable guys on tour.  Here is a glimpse of some of the fun to be had with Ben Crane – one of the 4 members of the all-PGA boy band “Golf Boys”.

You can click here to see the video of their song “Oh, Oh, Oh”

And check out this video response to his “slow play”

But while he may not take himself too seriously (that red outfit he is wearing in the video is evidence of that) he does take his faith in God very seriously.  As you can read in this article found at Faithwriters.com, he is precise and exacting, which consumed him as he constantly sought to better his game.  Golf was #1 in his life until he met a pastor at his home golf club and through the building of their relationship, he decided to live his life for God.  He still is diligent in his work on his gold game, but his perspective in from God’s purposes.  He desires to use golf as a platform to share God with others.  And God has given Crane some great places to impact lives.  He has given Crane some great accountability in friends too, like his friend Mark Teixiera of the New York Yankees.  He is using his web site to impact others, too.  He offers videos on improving your golf game (as well as more videos like the one above).  But also on his website, he has devotional thoughts and readings about God and living life for Him.

The Foundation that he and his wife started (The Ben and Heather Crane Foundation) also supports and raises money for H.O.P.E. Farm – an organization that runs an after school program for boys without fathers.  and also Love 146 – an organization that ministers to, and aids children who have been recovered from the sex trafficking trade in Asia.

So, if you are a casual golf fan, or a die-hard, looking for who to cheer on at the biggest golf tournament of the year, I would like to recommend Crane, and the others that I will focus on over the next couple of days as valid possibilities, if not for any other reason that with the biggest audience of the year, there will be a chance to proclaim what God is doing in their life, both through word and action.  Enjoy the tournament!