The Way of an Eagle

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

 

 

 

Jackie Gallagher-Smith

The prettiest member of the golfing Gallagher family (brother Jim is a member of the PGA Tour and brother Jeff is currently on the NIKE Tour) has been playing golf since she was five. She was the 1983 and 1985 Indiana State Junior champion and an All-American at LSU in 1989.

As a pro, Gallagher-Smith competed on the Futures Golf Tour, where she won three tournaments, the Asian Tour, and the Central Florida Challenge mini-tour. She joined the LPGA Tour in 1994, and her best finish was a fifteenth-place tie at the HEALTHSOUTH Palm Beach Classic.

"My parents were very devout Catholics, and my brothers and I went to Catholic grade school, went to mass every week, and said out prayers. When we were younger, especially around Eastertime, the boys would get all bummed out because my parents would say, "Okay, now we've got our little prayer time," and the boys would have to recite the stages of the Cross.

We learned a lot from my parents and developed good morals and values from them. They always loved and supported us. And now that I look back on them and how their relationship was, I can see that they have a true love for the Lord.

I remember my mom having surgery one time, and my dad was constantly praying. I didn't grasp what it was all about until much later-which is the case in many things in life. You don't learn much from your parents until you've experienced certain things on your own.

We were always a close-knit family, and my parents always kept on us about going to church and thanking God for all that He'd given us. It was a good background; it just has taken me a little more time to really develop a true relationship of my own with the Lord.

There was a girl on our golf team in college who was a Christian. She was always so bubbly, and we could never figure it out. We'd think, Golly, what is up with her? But she always read her Bible and talked about how she was born again and saved. My thought was: I go to church and pray. This is my way and that's her way.

Unfortunately, when I was in college, I didn't hear a lot about the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I wish I could have had the chance to be a part of it then.

But the terms "born again" or "saved" always scared me. I didn't understand-and I didn't want to be a part of it because I'd head the downside of it. Some people always degraded it.

Once I was out of college, I played the mini-tours because I missed the LPGA Qualifying School twice. It took me two more times to get my card. After the second try, I thought the world was coming to an end.

But God blessed me with my husband, Edie Smith, whom I met at another friend's wedding. We went through the Pre-Cana-the counseling process you go through before you get married in the Catholic church, where you meet with a married couple and talk with them. We also had a class we had to go to.

And at that time I started to think a lot about God. I knew that for our marriage to work, we needed God to be a part of it. I guess this is when my curiosity really went wild.

Once Eddie and I were married, we lived in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and it seemed like we were surrounded by Christians! Friends of Eddie's visited us after Christmas in 1992. We started discussing God, the Bible, and being born again with them because they were Christians. I started asking a lot of questions, and so did Eddie. They'd spoken to him about ten years ago about his relationship with Jesus Christ, and that's when he took Christ into his heart. Being around this couple, I could see they had a really neat relationship and there was something unique about it.

Eddie had kind of gotten away from his faith, but when we were brought together, it renewed his relationship with the Lord, because that's when we started talking about things and began trying to build our relationship. He really led me in the right direction. I was asking a lot of questions. I was very inquisitive.

Eddie then stared going to a Bible study for men in our neighborhood. He would come home each week, and I'd ask, "What did you learn this week?" Finally one week I asked him if I could come along, even though it was for men only. He called O. W. McCurdy, the man who held the Bible study in his house, and O. W. said, "Yeah, sure-tell her to come along." So I went to that study.

They had been discussing the book of John. That week, thought, O. W. went off on a different path. The topic was relationships. I remember Ephesians 5:22-23: "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as tot the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body." That kind of hit me hard.

It's a nice thing to know that after not playing well on the golf course that, no matter what, He'll always love me.

Then I realized that I could glorify Him through the talent He gave me by ministering to other people. The fact that He surrounded us with all of those Christians in Ponte Vedra-that was all part of His plan. It was interesting for Eddie and me to see all these things working together.

A couple years after that night, I was baptized in our hot tub. That was all in early January 1993.

Memorable Moment
I could tell you about the golf cart wreck I once had-but I'm not sure how fond a memory that is!

A better memory would be when I won LSU's tournament when I was a sophomore-and clueless! I was in the last group. I don't remember what I shot the first couple days; all I knew was that I had to keep all the other girls' scorecards. And I remember not wanting to write down any of their scores because I didn't want to think about what they were shooting; I wanted to stay in focus in my own game. I wrote down the numbers at the turn, but I never added them up! I just wanted to keep playing my game.

And when I finished, I didn't even know that I'd won because I was so wrapped up in what I was doing. In fact, I even bogeyed the last hole and thought for sure that I didn't win. But I ended up winning, and it was pretty cool, especially because I beat a couple of good players.

And once in 1993, I got to play in a foursome with Jo Ann Carner and Sandra Palmer in the U.S. Open. It was great- Jo Ann was really funny and Sandra was really nice, though I think my dad got more of a kick out of it than I did. I was the first alternate when someone pulled out, and so I snuck in there!

Strangely enough, I hadn't been feeling very good that week, so it wasn't as fun as it could have been. I wasn't on the LPGA that year and was just playing the mini-tours. Still, both Jo Ann and Sandra were comforting, encouraging and caring.

Tip
One thing I think is important is knowing how far you hit every club. It's important to know if it is, say, 155 yards to the hole. I think a lot of times the normal amateur doesn't necessarily know how far they hit each club-they're just guessing.

So something I've done, and it is something we did in college that I still do today, is to either go to a field or driving range and measure off the distance in increments of ten yards. Then I hit each club and see where it ends up. Or, to be more accurate, I have someone watch to see where the ball lands. Then I go through every club doing that.

I hit each club as hard as I can, then I hit it easy. This way I have both of those measurements. I've found if I hit a six iron easy, I'll hit it about 145 feet. But if I really hit at it, I'll hit it 155.

Of course, the short irons are more important because that's where scoring is done, along with you putter. That's what I worked on a lot in the past year, especially with my wedges. I spent time marketing off forty-five, fifty, fifty-five, sixty yards, and measuring exactly how far it takes with each swing.

When you're practicing, watch the yard markers. If you're just out there hitting balls, and you don't know how far you're hitting them, it doesn't help much.

Also, realize that all of this is give or take ten yards. A lot of times people under-club more than they over-club.

The other thing I'd suggest is working on you preshot routine. When you get behind the ball, try to achieve some consistency in your thought processes and habits. Do you take one or two practice swings? And once you're set up, do you waggle with your hands or do you stand still?

It's just repeating whatever method you go through before hitting each shot. If you go through that routine before you hit every shot, it'll help.

Another part of your preshot routine could be picking out a spot a couple of feet in front of you to align your club.

But there area all different kinds of good routines; everyone makes up their won. Whatever you do, it gives you consistency-and usually it will pay off in your club hitting and ball striking because you get comfortable with that routine.

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