As promised, I will finish up last weekend’s sojourn at the “fifth major” with a look at Zach Johnson. He was in contention last weekend, finishing tied for second with 3 others, 2 shots behind the winner, Matt Kuchar. I remember when Zach Johnson’s name first entered my awareness. It was at the Master’s in 2007 – when he won by 2 strokes over Retief Goosen, Rory Sabbatini, and Tiger Woods. This was, of course, during the time that Tiger was practically unbeatable at majors and here comes this guy from Iowa who was ranked 56th in the world, and he is the one that walked away with the Green Jacket. I remember that the tournament fell on Easter, and I remember Zach talking about his faith in Christ in the post-tournament interview. This caught my attention because I love hearing stories of Christians athletes having success at a professional level and acknowledging that God’s faithfulness is the strength on which they lean – win or lose.
Zach grew up in a Christian home, but didn’t really enter a relationship with God of his own there. As you can read in this FCA Cleveland article, written by Johnson himself, a girl caught his attention but she wouldn’t marry someone who didn’t have
a relationship with God, so with that motivation, they signed up for a pre-engagement class as you can read about in this article. Through that class, not only did they figure out that they were meant to be together, but a lot of the doubts, concerns, questions andpieces that hadn’t fit or hadn’t sunk in about God from his upbringing connected – and with it came more questions. As he sought answers and the hunger to know God developed, he knew the time had come to surrender his life to Christ.
I like Zach Johnson’s story because he is so quick to glorify God and give credit to Him. There is a lot of humility in this. Truth is that there would be good arguments to think that Johnson would never make it as a pro golfer. He went to Drake College in Iowa – not known as a powerhouse golf program. And he confesses that he wasn’t even the best player on his college team. He worked his way through 3 or 4 “minor league” tours. and competitions, trying to catch on and move forward until eventually earning a tour card 6 years after turning pro.
Since his arrival in the PGA in 2004, he has won 8 times, including 2007 at Augusta. He is currently #27 in the world but had a great showing at TPC last weekend.
Here are some things that caught my attention from his story.
1- I can’t say this enough. It is not enough to grow up in a home where Christ is central. There needs to be an intentional, personal relationship of your own with God. So many times, it seems that people go through life without allowing God to have full control and submit to what He wants. We can have such a vague concept of who God is. Last week with my 5th and 6th graders, we looked at the story of Isaiah and how he came to follow God (Isaiah 6). He saw God’s holiness and knew that he didn’t deserve to be there. Yet God forgave his guilt and atoned for his sin. When Isaiah experiences this, when he hears God looking for someone to carry out a mission, Isaiah says “Here I am!” All of us, but especially, I feel, those of us that grow up in the church need to have this point where we come to realize who God is, what holiness and perfection truly are, how far from it we are, and begin to grasp our need for a savior. Then when we realize that a savior is offering himself to us, that we need to gladly accept his forgiveness and then do anything that He asks us to do!
2- Zach is from Cedar Rapids, IA. That brings some memories back for me. My wife and I spent a few weeks there doing flood relief after a large portion of the city was ravaged by the swelling of the river banks in 2008. We were working with a missions organization and had just spent two summers in New Orleans. Then, more flooding hit, this time in Cedar Rapids. It was unexpected and destructive. Reading his story (especially this piece from augusta.com – warning – it’s long!) brought to mind the city and the wonderful people in it that we had the privilege to work with and meet. We pray that the recovery continues to provide positive results and that it won’t happen again.
Golf fans, tune in again from June 14-17 during US Open week for more “Living for God in a “Major” Way”