The Way of an Eagle
by Bob Darden,
P. J. Richardson,
I grew up attending church. Mine wasn't an evangelical background, but I went to church fairly regularly, and I did become confirmed in the Episcopalian church.
I went to college at Furman, a Southern Baptist school, and at the time, a lot of kids were active in Christian activities. I can remember walking down the halls and seeing signs for Bible studies or for the Campus Crusade chapter on campus or FCA meetings. I never got involved with any of them for some reason I guess I was too into school and golf.
But once I went out on the LPGA Tour, I got involved with the fellowship through a couple of people, especially Donna White, when she was playing on the Tour. And the very first activity I attended back in 1979 was when I inadvertently went to a FCA golf day. Bill Lewis was the first one who approached me, because he was originally from Reading, Pennsylvania, where I'm from and that's where I got involved. Following that golf day, I rode to the mixed-team tournament at the Broadmore with a lady named Margie Davis. She was going to be coming out on Tour the next year, the way Cris Stevens is out now, and she invited me to come to the first Tee-off Conference, a weekend retreat for Christian golfers that was held the week before the first tournament on tour. And that's where I committed my life to Christ.
Before then, I never really heard that I should have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, or that I needed to personalize that Christ died on the cross for my sin not just the general sins of the world. And I didn't know that it was more than just going to church on Sunday.
I always was a "good person." I didn't get into trouble much, I didn't drink much, and I wasn't wild. So sometimes it's hard for people who are close to you to see a real big change. But I knew inside, in my heart, that I was not a Christian.
Golf takes a lot of practice, and sometimes you don't have a lot of time for other things. But I've found as I've gotten older, particularly that there have been more opportunities to spend time with other people or to share my faith, and that's been good to see and be a part of.
A few years ago I went on a mission trip to Korea. We played golf with some different groups and shared our faith there. And I've done a couple of different things in Japan too all because golf gave me a platform to speak. Sometimes you'd like to get away from that, but golf gives you a platform among other golfers, and maybe some credibility among people in the business world if you've had success.
And sometimes it is just nice to do things where being a golfer doesn't make a bit of difference. Our trip to Romania was definitely that way. There they don't know anything or very little about golf. There aren't any golf courses in Romania. Being golfers didn't make much difference.
But a group of us went over and volunteered to do whatever we could to help. It originated with Cris; she wanted us to do something internationally, to help us get a feeling for the body of Christ around the world. It just so happened that Denny Ryberg had contacts in Romania. And that's how we ended up going there.
It was interesting going back a second time in 1994, because we spent some time with a couple of full-time missionaries, with some people who have committed a year, and with another guy who has committed four years. I found it very interesting to talk to them, to find out why they're there and what's the mind-set of someone that goes into full-time mission work. Just making the commitment to learn the language is a big effort and something that needs to be done if you're going to have an impact.
But it's just nice to help people as one person helping another.
The level of comfort that Romanians live in is vastly different from here, so their concerns are not: "Well, are we going to get that second car?" or "When are we going to get a bigger house?" Instead, it's more, "are we going to have enough food to eat today?" and "Are we going to have enough fuel for heat this winter?" Their energies are tied up with just the basic necessities of life.
That's the hardest to understand. You don't realize how optimistic we are in this country until you go to Romania. We still have the feeling in this country that, if you work hard enough, you can make it. Most Romanians don't feel that, because they don't have a government that supports them. Instead, it represses them or makes it impossible to get ahead. It's not like, where we say, "Well, if I just work a little harder, it'll eventually pay off." Because in Romania, it probably won't.
One of the things you do learn in missions is that everybody needs the Lord. Whether or not you're starving, you still need the Lord.
And the Romanian church really has grown. In some ways, because they are in more of a crisis situation, it causes people to question why and makes them think there has to be something better that this life. So in that respect, maybe their situation makes more people turn to the faith.
I found that in Korea too. While we were invading South Korea in 1985, they were still living under the threat of being invaded by North Korea the guy that was leading North Korea then was kind of crazy so they still had air0raid drills once a month. They had cables strung down the middle of the golf courses so that planes couldn't land in the middle of the fairways if there were another invasion.
It would be like living in Pennsylvania and being worries all the time that New Jersey was going to invade you! It would make you think, you know, I could die tomorrow, and sometimes when that happens, people are more apt to say, "what if I die tomorrow?" Whereas living here, people put that question off. And they sure don't say, "What if I die tomorrow am I going to go to heaven?"
Sometimes when you're looking in from the outside, you think that if a player doesn't win on the Tour, then they have no reason to stay out here. When everybody first comes out, they think, Oh, I'm going to win. If I don't win over in the first year, I'm not successful. By the time I finally won, I was thinking, Well, I might never win out here, but I'm still going to make a nice living and I'm still going to stay out here and work to be the best player I can be, whatever that is.
And as soon as I decided that, I started wining. It was strange. I have to give a lot of credit to Ed Oldfield too. He helped me make some swing changes that allowed me to hit the ball better and perform better.
I can't say that I won tournaments when I came to a personal relationship with Jesus. Sometimes people make it too dramatic. I mean, if that were true, then everybody on the LPGA would be at the Bible study each week! I have had a hard time with that.
But certainly I feel that, as a Christian, you do almost have an advantage because you do have it in perspective a little bit, and you're not basing your self-worth on what you shoot on the course. I see players out here and their moods defiantly go up and down according to how they're playing.
I admit that I get into that mode a little bit when I'm struggling. It makes it a little bit tougher to be out here, but when I know that God loves me the same whether I shoot 58 or 80, it makes it easier to put it on the line week after week.
There are a lot of people who are scared to say, "Hey, I gave it my best and it wasn't good enough." As a Christian you can say, Hey, I gave it my best and if it's not good enough, that's fine. And if it is, that's good too because my relationship with the Lord isn't going to change whether I win a tournament or don't win a tournament." For a player, that's reassuring.
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