The Way of an Eagle
by Bob Darden,
P. J. Richardson,
Dick Mast is one of the true gentlemen of the PGA Tour. Handsome, soft-spoken, articulate, he's played virtually every tour--with twenty-five victories on the mini-tours alone.
And while he's had a roller-coaster career, Mast is always near the top in putting accuracy. He had his best year in 1993, winning $210,125.
I was raised Mennonite in Columbus, Ohio. My grandparents were Amish-influenced, but they weren't completely Amish. It was a doctrinally correct church, and I was raised knowing that Jesus died for the world--and that included me. I was born American, I ate apple pie, I went to church, I was a pretty good guy, and I was baptized a baby--so, I was a Christian. If you would have asked me, that's what I would have told you.
I was born with a strong will and very competitive--competition was in my genes. My family had a strong sports background. My dad was a coach, my grandfather was a coach, my uncles were coaches--we were always around sports.
I was a head-on type of person: A + B = C. My dad used to say, "But what if you don't make it in golf, what if. . ." I'd cut him off; I wouldn't even let him finish. "Make it? I'll make it!" But I was a workaholic. I was out of balance.
It wasn't until after not reaching my goals through golf in 1975 on the Tour, when another Christian golfer, Richard Crawford, shared his faith with me that a light came on. God revealed to me that I had an intellectual faith and that I did not have a heart-faith. I had never transferred my trust and put it in Christ, and so I asked Him in that night.
I didn't understand a lot of things that I do now: doctrine, virgin birth, all of that stuff. But what was important was that you could have held a gun to my head the next morning and I would not have denied Christ. So it was a very emotional step for everybody.
But I still had a lot of burdens in my mind: bad sponsors, I couldn't break 75 any more, and I was losing my card. All I ever wanted to do was play golf--and suddenly I couldn't play golf. Golf was controlling my life.
And so God humbled me. And that's how I got saved. That was what finally broke me. I would get up every day after playing poorly the day before--I'm an eternal optimist; I still am and I have to keep that in check--and I'd say, "Today's going to be the day!" And I kept getting knocked out, like Mohammed Ali was jumping in there to knock me out every day.
Pretty soon, I couldn't get up.
So God humbled me.
I'd had some success. I'd reached my goals a step at a time. Actually, when I started out, I almost won the first tournament I played in! So I had some success right at the beginning. But from a practical standpoint, what happened happened because God allowed it to happen.
The worse I would play, the harder I would work. I played well the first eight to ten tournaments, but I needed rest. So I'd go home, and I'd go out with my dad and play and shoot 67 on the home course. And he'd say, "Get out there! You don't know when your time is coming!" I needed rest, but I just kept playing, working, and finally I broke.
And that's the best thing that could have happened; it was the best thing that ever happened to me. My problems didn't go right away, but somehow I knew things were going to work out.
Matthew 11:29-30 says, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." That verse really meant a lot to me at that time. My salvation experience was like a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
What part does the Tour Bible study play in your spiritual life?
The Bible study is great, but you really need to be plugged into a local church at home, because it is not enough out here on the Tour. It is while you're out here, but it's not enough overall. You've got to have a pastor, and you've got to have a local body that you belong to. Some guys consider this a church out here--I don't consider it enough.
Some guys are saved out here, so Larry Moody is basically their pastor.
I was trained on the mini-tours and their Bible studies, and there is a little more camaraderie because you're there every week. During my first three years as a Christian, I wasn't churched. The churches I was in before I was saved were very lukewarm. The first church I got into was a Southern Baptist church in Orlando, and I said, "Wow, look at this!"
Actually, that wasn't the first one. There was Grace Community in Arizona. My wife, Roberta, and I thought, "There is no church like this! We've got to move out here. This is the only church in the world like this." And of course, as we grew in the Lord, we found that there were churches like that all over the world.
But the first one we got into, and where we got doctrinally trained, was a Southern Baptist, and we're Southern Baptist now. There's no perfect denomination, but we've received some necessary training in evangelism and discipleship, which I am thankful for.
The Lord took me off the Tour for five years, and I got that training that I wouldn't have had otherwise. And so it has helped me in encouraging other guys who continued to stay out here and never got that. I can see things from a different perspective.
One of the highlights of my career--and a lot of people aren't aware of this--is that I hold the record for the lowest four rounds ever shot and recorded at a PGA-run event; I did it at the tour school in Sarasota, Florida. One time in 1985 when I was trying to get back on the Tour, I shot thirty-two under par. The lowest, to that point, was on a par seventy-one by Mike Souchak--mine was on a par seventy-two. His total was a 259, while I shot a 256 on a par seventy-two, 6,700-yard golf course.
When they interviewed me afterward, they asked me why I played so well. I said, "I didn't want to come back out if it wasn't the Lord's will! So I had a lot of people praying for me--I guess they just overprayed!"
I shot a twenty-seven-under par two weeks before that in the Dakotas Tour on a much easier golf course, but that day I was working on visualizing, picturing what I wanted, staying within the system, staying slow, imaging--all those good things you need to do.
It's like art. An artist draws a picture in his mind and looks at you, and in seconds he's drawn your picture. You say, "How'd you do that?" And the artist says, "I just traced it," because in his mind he can see it right there on the canvas. It's the same in golf. It's artistic.
Putting is my best stat. I tell amateurs the same thing I tell good players: The closer you get to the hole, the more important it is to visualize and feel what you're doing in picturing the line.
There's a lot to putting really. For instance, you need to take the lay of the land and the contour of the green into consideration.
It helps in the southern part of the hemisphere, like Bermuda, to be able to "read" grain, because it generally goes west.
However, up north, where you have bent grass, it's not as grainy, and you can just read contour. So there you can rely totally on what you see. If it's left edge, it's going to be left edge.
So first of all, you've got to be able to program the computer. Say you have a level putt, and the greens are grainy, and west is to right-hand side. The putt, even though, it is a level putt, will tend to go toward the west, because the grain runs that direction--just like a carpet. It will affect the line of the putt--and the speed. So you need to learn how to read greens like that.
I'm a real believer in putting drills because they help your visuals. I have two drills I use--and don't tell anybody this. I don't want my secrets to get out!
In the first drill, I use a ten-foot board to rest the heel of my putter on. I line it up on the left edge of the cup, and I put the heel of my putter on it so that the putter is perpendicular to the board, or square. I stroke right on the board. I put a ball down so that the ball's target line will run right into the middle of the cup--if you line the board up at the left edge.
I use that to make sure that I'm making a perfect stroke--if there is such a thing--a square stroke, as perfect as you're going to get. I keep the face square to hole at all times, and I stroke like that.
This helps you line up your visuals, and it helps your perception. You're actually aiming where you think you are, which is one of the most important things in putting--aiming the putter where you want the ball to go. The closer you get to hole, the more important it is to aim.
I'll also work on rhythm and my eye control. I'll look up and down line of my putt. After you've putted there for, say, fifteen minutes, there will be a very faint line created where the ball rolled on the grass, like a faint chalk line. I look up and down that line, up and down that line, over and over and over.
If you do that for a month, say, thirty minutes a day, then you'll develop your perception. Wherever you think you're aiming it, it will help you to see a line when you go out to play.
The second thing is I'm a spot putter, and that also helps with this board idea, getting your eye alignment correct. Spot putting is where you have a breaking putt. Say it breaks two cups to the left. I generally pick a point that's approximately halfway to the hole. With a twenty-foot putt, I pick a point halfway between myself and the hole.
To practice, I'll put a couple of coins down. One coin where I'm going to hit the putt, and one coin halfway there--representing a spike mark or a discoloration or whatever object I pick on the golf course. Then I'll roll the ball just over the coin or just to the right of the coin.
If it misses, try to go a foot by the hole. You'd be surprised--you can come within one-sixteenth of an inch of that same spot, and if the speed is different, it will miss the whole cup. So what the coin-spotting drill does is develop your touch for the proper speed, and it shows you how important it is to have proper speed. You can hit nearly perfect putts, but if the speed isn't consistent, they're not going to break the same.
So these little aids really enhance your visuals and feel, especially if you go to a surface where one green is slower one week than the next. You can get the coins out and get your pace down.
Putting is much like bowling--you're trying to bring the target to you when you spot bowl. Only here, you're spot putting.
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