The Way of an Eagle
by Bob Darden,
P. J. Richardson,
Beneath the dazzling smile and great mane of beautiful hair is one tough little golfer. Barb Bunkowsky has steadily become a force to be reckoned with on the LPGA Tour in recent years after a long, difficult apprenticeship.
Despite winning the Chrysler-Plymouth Charity Classic in 1984, the Canadian-born Bunkowsky struggled through a number of tough seasons. Eventually, however, the poise and skills that made her a top amateur golfer (1981 AIAW National Champion) began to emerge.
IN 1993-93 alone, Bunkowsky earned more than $300,000 and punctuated her all-around strong play with a third-place finish at the Sprint Championship, a third-place tie at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, and a fifth-place tie at the Youngstown-Warren LPGA Classic.
"Both of my parents were Lutheran, and we went to church regularly every Sunday. I didn't go to a lot of Bible studies; it was mostly just church on Sunday s. I went to church because I had to go to church.
I first accepted Christ as my Savior in about 1986 in Hawaii. I'd been through a lot of stuff through the off-season. The Hawaii tournament was in March, so the January and February before that I'd been going through a lot of difficult times. I was struggling a bunch.
I was on a path to destruction, and I knew it. I'd been drinking a lot, and I'd been very promiscuous-I was in that whole scene. I was on the road where I knew I had to make a choice. The Lord eventually just humbled me to make that choice. Sometimes He has to break us first before we learn. Sometimes it takes pain. Everybody can relate to that; everybody's had a painful experience in his or her life. And while I'd made some friends along the way in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, I had never really committed my life to Christ. Finally, I though, I need to give my life over to Christ to run-I can't do it any more.
So I went to be with a group of Christians on the Tour. I went to the fellowship because I wanted to go there. I was hungering for the Lord. I was thirsting for knowledge, thirsting for the answers. And over a period of time, I came to know Jesus through the Bible study.
I don't seem to trust like a lot of people do, so it took me longer. It had nothing to do with my original religion; I just don't trust much of anything. Or didn't. Since then I've had to remove the walls, layer by layer.
I was struggling with so many different things in those days: self-esteem, confidence, so many, many things. Becoming a Christian was a gradual sorting out of all of those things-and still is.
It didn't really hurt when I parted from my old friends because I knew I had to. I didn't have that many friends, so it wasn't such a big deal. But the friends I did have weren't real friends anyhow-even though I thought they were. I knew they were on a path to destruction, and I didn't want to keep going down with them.
I didn't make friendships easily back then because I didn't know how to. I was hiding behind drinking. When I'd get bored with life, I'd be promiscuous. I like my current lifestyle much better. I'm much happier, and it is less frustrating.
And now I can go back to them and give them support, when at that time I couldn't.
But there are times when I'm more frustrated now than when I wasn't a Christian, because now I have to deal with my sin. Before I never had to deal with it; I just keep on going. I'm certainly more humble now! I'm convicted more-sometimes right away! So becoming a Christian has made a definite impact on my life.
One big thing I've noticed lately is that I have more hope a more purpose in coming out to play golf. Before it was just chasing the white ball.
Now there are more opportunities where I can spread the gospel-such as getting to know people in the Wednesday pro-am tournaments. I used to struggle on Wednesday with pro-ams. Meeting four new people every week and having to go out and play a game of golf with them was really a struggle for me. But the more I prayed, and the more I asked for opportunities to arise during the day, the more I enjoyed it.
Now I talk about it all the time. It seems like any question I m asked can always bring me back around to my faith. I don't do it on purpose to get somebody to "come to the Lord," but when someone asks me a question, if I want to answer it honestly, the Lord has to be involved.
Cris Stevens' Bible study has had a definite impact. It helps me during the times my faith is wavering a little bit to go there and have fellowship with the other girls on tour, and get out of my own little environment. To be with other Christians on tour, to have some support, to talk about your faith-all of that is important.
I learned a little bit from all of the Christian players on the Tour just by watching them. When they shot bad rounds, I watched how they handled the situation-that made me realize that they had a lot of hope, a lot of joy, and a lot of peace in their lives. I wanted a part of that. I could see those qualities in every Christian I came in contact with.
I use my faith all the time now when I'm playing and practicing. When I'm filled with anxiety because I haven't been practicing, I ask God to give me peace about that. When I'm playing with a partner who is going through a tough time, I ask the Lord to give me the opportunity to share with her and encourage her all week.
I speak to a lot of youth and college groups on the LPGA Tour. It's really neat to see a kid come to know the Lord-I wish I had done it when I was younger. But then, the Lord always has you in a different place, and He wants you to meet Him on His timing-not on your timing. Now I'm thankful that I did find the Lord at all. It is neat to see and hear the young people, to know there could be a couple of kids that very morning committing their lives to Christ. You never know who it will be.
So, in the end, it was the hope that attracted me. Definitely the hope. When I did it for myself, I got all frustrated. When I did it for the Lord, my life immediately began to have more meaning and more purpose.
I used to quit when I'd start playing badly; I would really quit. Now with the Lord, I'm more at peace. When things start going badly, I can make light of it. I don't take life so seriously; I'm not so hard on myself.
I was in a tournament in late 1994, and I was playing very well. But on the third day I started playing badly. I just asked the Lord to get me through, because it was a tough day, and I asked Him to put everything in perspective-even though I wasn't going to finish as well as I thought I was going to.
I finished up and realized what was more important. That was a special time.
I feel like I'm a pretty good driver. I finished seventh in accuracy in 1993. I just can drive the ball right up the middle.
So from an amateurs standpoint, I'd say: Try not to go at it too hard; try not to kill it every time. It didn't take me long to realize that being in the middle of the fairway is better than being in the trees for being in the rough with a bad lie.
As a result, I say to golfers all the time, "Don't try to go at it as hard. Try to put a controlled swing on it."
I try to set up the same way every time and look at the green. I set up according to where the trouble is. If the trouble is down on the left side, I'll stand on the left side and hit out to the right. If the trouble is on the right side, I'll stand on the right side and hit off to the left. This gives me more green to hit away from the trouble. And it gives me more fairway to look at as well.
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