The Way of an Eagle

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

 

 

 

Rik Massengale

When I was twelve years old, my brother Don started playing the PGA Tour. From that time forward, all of my family vacations were spent at pro tournaments watching Don compete. I was able to go into the pro's locker room and sometimes even walk inside the ropes with Don while he played. Because of this exposure to the Tour, I knew from an early age that I wanted to play pro golf.
I played other sports through high school, but I knew that golf would provide my only opportunity to play a professional sport. I was able to win some junior golf tournaments and was granted a golf scholarship to the University of Texas. My main reason for going to college was to play on the golf team, because I knew I needed the competition on the college level to prepare me for the Tour.
While in college, I really developed tunnel vision. In fact, golf became a god in my life. Everything I did was centered around golf and every decision was determined by what would best benefit my golf future. Instead of developing a long-range plan for my future and using my college experience to prepare for it, I saw college simply as an opportunity to gain the competitive edge I needed for pro golf.
Because achieving at golf was so important to me, everything else in my life was affected by the way I played. On the golf course I would get mad and curse and throw clubs when I hit bad shots or missed easy putts. I knew that this type of attitude and behavior kept me from playing as well as I could, but I just didn't have the self-control that I needed to respond correctly.
I also had problems off the course. My identity was totally tied up in being a golfer. I was fine as long as I was around golfers and people who knew of my golfing abilities. But if I was around people who didn't know of my achievements, I became very insecure. To overcome this feeling of inadequacy, I started drinking. The only way I could socialize was to drink enough to lose my inhibitions. Because of my drinking antics, I was known as a "wild ma" at fraternity parties, but the fact was that I was too insecure to be there any other way.
During my time in college, I had some good success and won some golf tournaments, including the Southwest Conference Championship and Western Armature. The success further fueled my desire to play the Tour and in 1969, I turned pro and entered the Tour Qualifying School.
The biggest disappointment in my life came when I failed to qualify for the Tour on my first attempt. At that time there was no other pro tournaments in which I could play, and I had to wait for an entire year for my next chance to qualify. I worked at a golf course and had a lot of practice. Fortunately, I was able to qualify in 1970.
My first couple of years on the Tour were not as successful as I had hoped, but I accepted the fact that it would probably take a couple of years to adjust, so I persevered. However, by my fourth year on Tour my self-worth was at an all-time low. I felt fine if I played well, but I was miserable if I played poorly. And I played poorly a lot more than I played well! I became so unhappy that I decided I was going to quit the Tour.
I was also having a lot of marriage problems – which were directly related to my golf career, because I was unable to leave my golf problems at the golf course. I was often preoccupied and concerned with golf, which made me unable to meet the needs of my family.
In the spring of 1974, my wife decided to filed for divorce. But before we went through with the divorce, we had a talk together and we went to one of the Tour Bible studies. I had grown up in a church, but because my church experience lacked relevance, I quit going when I started college. However, I had some questions and thought some of the pros might have some answers.
The Reverend Billy Graham, who was playing in the pro-am of the Kemper Open that year, was the speaker at the Bible Study. He made a statement that Christianity was not a religion, it is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That really hit me because I didn't know what that meant. I had never heard that before. I went to that meeting thinking I was a Christian because I attended church for a lot of years.
The next week a friend of mine gave me a Campus Crusade booklet that explained how a person becomes a Christian. From it I realized that I was not a Christian because I had never made any kind of commitment to Christ. I just thought it was "try hard, do good and maybe you'll make it to heaven."
But with the help of just a few verses, I realized that Christ had paid the penalty for my sin and that I just needed to receive that gift of salvation from Him:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). I had to admit that I had sinned and rebelled against God's laws and standards.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). I had to acknowledge that the penalty for sin was separation from God for eternity. I realized for the first time that I stood before God condemned, and I had no idea what to do about it.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8). Even though I had sinned and deserved to be separated from God, Jesus Christ came and died on the cross for me. I deserved death, but Jesus became my substitute.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name (John 1:12). It was not enough to know the facts about Jesus Christ, but I had to personally receive Him as my Savior.
In June 1974 I acknowledged my sin and received Jesus Christ into my life.
That was the greatest decision I have ever made. My wife made that commitment at the same time. I didn't experience an overnight change, but over the next six to eight months I realized that God was making significant changes in my life.
Over the next few months my wife and I started seeing our relationship growing closer, only because our main priority was getting to know Christ better by reading the Scriptures together and praying together. As we started growing closer to God, we started seeing that our marriage and our relationship as a couple were improving.
In 1994, we celebrated twenty-five years of marriage, and I know that with out Christ we never would have made it five years. Also, God gave me a great victory over my emotions on the golf course, gave me much more patience, peace and self-control that I had ever had before. Golf became an enjoyable career from that point on, even though there were good years and bad years. It is never fun to play poorly, but after receiving Christ, at least my whole life is not dictated by the way I played on the course!

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