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.
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!