The Way of an Eagle
by Bob Darden,
P. J. Richardson,
I come from a Lutheran church. When I was a kid, we went to church with mom and dad, but we never really desired to go to church. I went through confirmation classes and was confirmed. I was even an usher for awhile. But after high school I started going just during the holidays. My mom and dad believed, but we never talked about it. To tell the truth, I never really knew what it meant to be a Christian until 1991. I always believed in God, but I didn't know much else.
I grew up playing golf. By the time I was fourteen, Id decided I wanted to become a touring professional that was the life I'd set up. Golf dominated my life from that point on. I told myself, I'm going to turn pro, and I'm going to give myself three years to see if I'm good enough.
After two years of college golf, I realized I was good enough, and two years later I got my Tour card and went out on the PGA Tour. Golf dominated my life. There was absolutely nothing important to me except getting my Tour card and playing on the PGA Tour.
From when I started playing at age eleven, right on through to the present day, I've improved every single year that I've played golf. I've spent twenty-four years improving in golf. It was a total obsession: "I will get that card, and I will do what ever it takes."
I went to college. I wasn't that great when I entered college, but I worked my way up, and by the end of the year, I was an All-American. But when I turned pro I didn't do very well at first. After a couple of years, I was doing well on the mini-tours. Then I won on the mini-tours. It was the same when I got my Tour card. I had a terrible 1990 I made $10,000 and made only five cuts that first year on the Tour.
Midway through my second year on Tour, the same thing was going on. I had basically only made about $7,000 that year to that point. So we're looking at a grand total of about $17,000 I had made on the PGA Tour in about a year and a half.
But beginning in 1990, I started playing on both the regular and Hogan tours with a friend of mine, Fred Wadsworth. Fred's a Christian who was on the Tour at the time. He and his wife had talked to me about my faith from time to time, and they asked me to go to as Bible study one night. That evening Fred planted a seed: "Just because you're a good guy doesn't mean you're a Christian." That started working on me. This was about April 1990.
Later that year, I went for the first time to a Tour Bible study with Kenny Knox. David Krueger was speaking and he's a fantastic speaker. I still love to hear him talk. From that point on, the beginnings of a religious faith just sort of got into my conscience a little bit at a time.
I never really did anything about it until 1991. I was in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, playing in the Deposit Guarantee, and I was rooming with Fred Wadsworth again. That week he really sat down and talked to me. We spent some time in the room that night talking about God and talking about what a Christian is and how it is a personal relationship with Jesus.
This was something I never really understood before. That was the first time I'd ever heard it and understood it. As soon as I understood it, I made a commitment right then and there. I started reading the Bible that week; I read it pretty much everyday until I'd read through the complete Bible. It took me probably two and a half years to finish it.
I made that commitment to Christ about April. In June, I found myself in the U.S. Open. I had a chance to win the 1991 U.S.Open in Haseltine with nine holes to go. I was in the third-to-last group, playing with Fred Couples. My golf game took off after that point. That one tournament, that confidence builder, and I took off.
I almost got my card that year - I probably should have. I was leading the Canadian Open through six holes into the fourth round before Nick Price birdied five holes in a row to beat me. I ended up finishing eighth.
My career started taking off. Why? Mainly, I think, because golf was not the most important thing in my life anymore. It was still very important, but it was not the most important thing in my life. I had God, and I had my wife, Yvette, and two children now and they were more important than golf. I still worked at golf just as hard. I just didn't let it consume me as much. I felt like, I'm playing golf to try to please God.
Sure, I still find myself, as all Christians do, getting mad sometimes. Sometimes on a golf course, I think: Why am I getting mad at a white ball? I find myself not acting the way I should. I think we all do that. That's where I stumble a lot in my Christian life. But I'm working on it.
To be at this level, a PGA Tour player, you almost need to dominate yourself, to make golf the main focus in your life. But to become the best that you can be there's no way that you can do it alone. The better you get, the more you play at that top level, the more self-doubt you begin to have.
I'm in it right now in October 1994, trying to finish in the top 125. Even four weeks ago I was sitting 160th on the money list, before finishing sixth at the Canadian Open, vaulting myself right into contention. But maybe I won't finish in the top 125 this year. Maybe God doesn't want me to. But I can tell you this: when I didn't make it back in 1991, I went back to school and spent that whole year of 1992 on the NIKE Tour, and it taught me how to handle the pressure. I won out there, and I won out there in the heat. Certainly I want to play on the PGA, so I'm not working on being number 125 out here. I'm working on trying to improve myself as a person.
I'm also trying to win instead of just trying to keep my card. I've got three tournaments left this year, and I did not meet my expectations at all. In 1993, I finished ninety-fourth on the money list. I was shooting in 1994; I really played poorly. But you know what? I've got three tournaments left. What if I would go out and win one of those? All of a sudden, it would be my most successful year ever. And here I am in the first week of October saying it's not a very good year even if I were to finish third somewhere. You just don't know how it is going to be. That's why you've got to remain patient - and faithful.
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