The Way of an Eagle

by Bob Darden,
P. J. Richardson,
Robert Darden

 

 

 

Rick Fehr

Red-headed Rick Fehr has increased his earnings for the past six seasons, culminating with a whopping $573,963 in 1994 and his first PGA Tour victory since the 1986 B.C. Open. But the big win at the 1994 Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic almost didn't happen. At the last minute, Fehr put off hernia surgery, felt bad all week, and, because of a transportation mix-up, arrived just fifteen minutes before his tee-time on Sunday!

Fehr's career in golf has been one of unbroken success: winner of the 1979 Washington State Junior and PGA National Junior Championships, winner of the 1982 Western Amateur, two-time All-American at Brigham Young, low amateur at the 1984 Masters and 1984 U.S. Open. He's also on the PGA Tour Policy Board and is a sweet-spirited, self-effacing family man.

And, oh yeah-a month after the Disney/Oldsmobile Classic he did have the successful hernia surgery.

"I was recruited heavily out o junior golf, and I had my choice of any place to go. And, being from the West Coast back in the late 1970's and early 1980's, the premiere program was Brigham Young University. I made some visits around the country, but I got to BYU and said, "Boy, this place has a great atmosphere. I love it here." It had a great golf tradition and great players. I wanted to be someplace competitive, play in the best college tournaments, and have a chance to win the NCAA. So I ended up at BYU.

For all students at BYU, it is required that they take a course each semester in religion. During my first year I studied the Book of Mormon. I made it through that class-which wasn't easy for someone who is not a Mormon. During my sophomore year I took two semesters of New Testament. For me, that was something totally new. I thought, Hey, this is pretty neat-we're reading the Bible. So I started reading it and studying it. By following the course outline, I read through the entire New Testament.

All of a sudden, I felt like, Whoa! This is speaking to me! This just isn't some old book!

I had had a very successful junior golf career and had achieved one goal after another. And yet, I wasn't satisfied. I'd reach a goal, but when I got there, it wasn't what I thought it would be. So the answer was either: "Figure out if it is something different" or "Keep pushing on to the next level-and keep hoping that answer is behind the next door or the next goal."

During my freshman year I finished in the top ten individually in twelve of the fourteen tournaments we played. Our team won the NCAAs, but I only got honorable mention all-
America-which I thought was a little bit of an injustice-but I really was doing well. During my sophomore year I won a couple of tournaments, so I did even better.

It was a natural progression, but still, at the end of the day I felt like, this can't be all there is.

At the same time, I was still reading through the Bible and discovering for the first time, about this stuff called "sin." The gospel was just jumping off the pages at me. I soon saw that I didn't have a relationship with God. Worse, I saw that I couldn't have that relationship-the Bible is pretty clear on this-because I was separated from God by sin. Not only that, I couldn't do anything on my own to solve the problem.

But the good news is: Jesus Christ did that for me. It was all very simple. All of a sudden, it leaped off the pages. This wasn't with anybody else's input or direction, just the Bible speaking directly to me. For the most part, it was the book of Romans; going through Romans just led me right along.

The only problem was that I was getting conflicting messages in the classroom at BYU! Naturally, that confused me a little bit. I saw everything as so simple and clear- and now I know that that was the Holy Spirit's touch revealing God's plan for me. But at the same time, I was sitting there in class going, "Wait a minute! That's not what I'm reading in the Bible!

That began a year-long investigation into the Mormon Church and its claims-and where they line up and don't line up with the Bible. I was hearing from some teammates who were Mormons, and I was hearing from a couple of friends at home who had become Christians. It was kind of a final analysis before I made the decision which way to go.

The summer after my junior year, I made an intellectual and mental decision about what God had done for me, but I really hadn't acted on it yet. But one Sunday that summer at home, at Overlake Christian Church in Kirkland, Washington, I knew exactly what I needed to do, and God just called me forward. I went forward at the altar call. That was the seal of that transaction, that God took first place in my life. I turned my life over to Him, and He became my Lord as well as my Savior.

Because of my experience at BYU, I really encourage people to read the Bible. I believe if you get somebody sitting down with the Word of God, He's going to be there with them revealing Truth.

After my junior year, things got more difficult at school. I didn't have the fellowship I'd enjoyed at home.

I still had a great experience at BYU. It was great for my career and the people are wonderful. They really intended to seek God. But their teachings, the foundations of their church, just aren't right. They just don't line up with Scripture.

It's interesting that another couple of golfers for BYU-Bobby Clampett and Pat McGowan-are now solid Christians. I think it is a great testimony of God's power. You can't put the credit in anybody else's hands. It's always His doing; the transaction takes place by His power.

From that point forward, I was on the Tour. My wife and I still fellowship and are involved in the Christian church where I had my beginnings, and I love being home, but one of things that I regret about my career is that we're not as involved locally as we could be.

But that's the story; that's how God brought me into His family. To sum it up, I had all the success I ever wanted-but it didn't meet my needs.

God blesses people in professional sports with a lot of things, but I view these blessings as opportunity to be a responsible steward. That's one of things my wife, Terri, and I enjoy the most-being able to take the resources that God provides out here and use them to help ministries. It's a wonderful life, but we have great responsibilities too.

We've been through tough times, although not in the last few years because God has really blessed what we've been doing on the Tour in that time. But I've been back to Tour School three or four times, and nobody wants to go back there. For a professional golfer, going back to Tour School is kind of traumatic. Still, any life is a struggle.

Also, Terri and I lost a baby back in 1992, and that was the hardest thing we've been through. We thought even then, How can somebody go through some of these struggles in life without a relationship with the Lord? With some of the answers that we have through what He reveals in Scripture-as well as the things we don't understand-we know that we're in the hands of a God who loves us and has our best interests at heart.

I also know that my significance, my security, aren't tied up in how well I play golf, whether I'm number one on the money list or 65th or 180th. This life is a short period of time, and we're just passing through. So you sure don't want you treasure to be down here.

Memorable Moment
My victory a the Disney/Oldsmoblie Classic in October 1994 was my first victory in nearly eight years, so everybody was saying it was my time, that I'd worked hard, that I'd been playing well lately, whatever. So it may not have been such a big surprise. But there was more.

Our church, Overlake, was going through some changes-a big fund-raising program for building a new facility. It's a real alive and growing church. We were relocating into Redmond, Washington, which is an adjacent town. With any building program, some people say, "Uh, that's a lot of money," and some people are skeptical.

But this is one of those things where we finally decided, "You know? We're in the world, we're not of it, but we're in it. And in order to have a place where we can meet needs and minister, we need a facility." We just outgrew the old one. So my wife and I decided we were going to be involved.

October 16, 1994, was commitment Sunday at Overlake. We had an all-church banquet where everybody came and made their commitment as to what they were going to give.

A month earlier, Terri and I sat down, prayed about it, and discussed what it was that God would have us commit to for the next three years. It was a little bit by faith, since golfers aren't salaried-we're essentially freelancers. There has been a plentiful amount in recent years, but you never know down the road. So we made a commitment at that time concerning how much we were going to give. It was kind a sizable amount and would involve some sacrifice.

And then I was in Columbus, Georgia, and Terri was home with the kids, and they were going to come down t meet me at the Disney tournament in Orlando. That Sunday, Terri sang at the service-she's a gifted singer. The message that morning was about passing your faith on from generation to generation. It was tied into the building program, because the kids would need a place to bring their friends and neighbors, and we'd simply outgrown that place. So the message was on the importance of passing on your faith to the next generation. Terri was touched as she heard of it, thinking about our two boys. She really felt moved that we need to do more than what we had decided on a few weeks earlier.

So, while she was driving home, she got to thinking, Wouldn't it be neat if Rick won-if wins anytime soon-and we could give it all to the building program. So when she arrived with the boys the Tuesday before the Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Golf Classic began, she shared her thoughts with me.

"I don't know what you'll think about it, honey," she said, "but I was really thinking next time you win, let's give it all tot the building program!"

I said, "Great!" We've got everything we need. Let's take that next step and lay it out before God."

That very week, I broke an eight-and-a-half year winning drought!

Everything fell into place. We are convinced that it was no coincidence.

We honored that pledge-although I had to pay my caddie first since he wasn't in on the plan! -and gave the balance to the building fund. With a lot of joy. It was really a miraculous thing. It is probably one of the most clear-cut evidences of God in my life. A lot of people would say, "Oh, it's just coincidence."

Giving has always been a very private thing for us. And it's not like, "Look what we did." It's Look what God did!" I don't take any credit for any of that. We shared what had happened at the banquet as something to encourage others, to say, "Look what God's done. If you've wondered if God's behind this building program before-here's confirmation received on our part!"

It's just another way I've always been taught and challenged: You can't outgive God. Even with the right motives and the right heart, can you really ever outgive God?

Tip
I see it every Wednesday in the pro-am tournaments. It's a common mistake, even by people who've played a long time, not just those who occasionally play. It's the inability to hit a shot from near the green that gets up I the air and lands softly.

There's a shot that's termed the "lob." Most people are afraid to hit it because it uses a club they shy away from-their sand wedge. They think it's just for the sand, but actually most golf professionals in most situations around the green are using that club. It's a club they probably hit more than any other, save for their putter and driver. They chip with it and use it for those challenging shots where they are hitting it over a sand trap or over water and they want the ball to stop quickly. It's really just a matter of understanding the physics of how the club and the ball meet and what the result is.

If you take any golf club and open up the clubface, you add loft to it-effective loft-which makes the ball get up quicker and higher and not go as far.

So what I do for the lob shot, and what I think most people should be able to do, is aim left with an open stance and open shoulders. I open the clubface, as most people have been taught to do when playing out of a sand trap-and do it off of grass. I suggest you lay the clubface more open than a sand shot, and then have very relaxed hands, and make sure your body and your hands don't slide ahead. Just stay really still with soft, relaxed hands, and let the club do the work.

Of course, that comes from practice and working with it and trusting that you can take a big swing from that distance, because you're adding so much loft that the ball isn't going to travel as far, but instead is going to get up high and land soft. It's something that we practice all the time. As with any tip that you might get, you need to practice. You need to find a situation where you can practice and spend a lot of time with it.

If you really wanted to elevate and get fancy, you'd use more wrist, but I think for this hot to be effective for most people, you don't have to. The key is not to have your hands way ahead of the club when it meets the ball because then you end up delofting, taking the loft back off of the club. What you want to do is return your hands to the same setup position and have the open face, because if you move ahead of it with your hands and with your body, you're going to end up hitting it too far and across the green. So you need to stay back and let your hands and the club meet the ball pretty much at the same time.

You do follow through, but you don't create an angle with your shaft forward. You want to keep everything still-just kind of dumping your club underneath it with an open face.

And this is a difficult shot to hit if you don't have a good lie. If the ball's not sitting on a good piece of grass, or if the ball's sitting on some hard pan or whatever, you probably shouldn't use this shot unless you're very well-versed and practiced. But if you've got a decent lie in the fairway or the rough, it works quite well.

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