The Way of an Eagle

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

 

 

 

Larry Rinker

Larry Rinker comes from one of the premiere golf playing families in the history of the sport. Brother Lee just joined the PGA, while sister Laurie and sister-in-law Kelli play the LPGA. A consistent Tour performer, Rinker was a dominant college golfer at the University of Florida, and before joining the PGA, he once won six mini-tour tournaments in a single year. He's also an accomplished singer, guitarist and songwriter.

I came from a Southern Baptist tradition, and I was seven when I made a decision for Jesus. I remember it was the Fourth of July. My father was the Sunday school superintendent of First Baptist, Stuart, Florida. We went to church every Sunday. My mother sang in the choir. I was the second of three brothers, with a sister who is the youngest in the family. As we got older, my mother began teaching Sunday school as well. I sang in the choir and played music and all that stuff. I still play the guitar.

It has been a pretty rocky journey since then. Growing up in the church, going to Sunday school every week, you have some questions when you go out in the real world, when you start going to college, when you get out on your own--questions that were maybe not answered when you were growing up. Questions like: "Why are unbelieving Jews going to hell?" or "Why are all those people who never heard Christ's name going to hell?" I had a good friend who was Jewish, and I found out how much they are looked down upon and ostracized from their families for becoming Christians. These things bothered me.

I never stopped believing, but my attitude was, "I know what I need for salvation, and I treat other people the right way, so I'll just go ahead and live my life."

When I went to college, I went to church about once a semester. I always attended when I went home, but in college I didn't. I got away from going to church, I got away from reading my Bible, and I got away from my walk. Finally, I was not going at all. In time, I did a lot of things I'm ashamed to admit--a lot of things I wouldn't want people to know that I did.

The turning point for me came when I met my wife, Jan. She was a Methodist. When we met it was, "Okay, now we need to get married in a church." Being raised Southern Baptist, it just seemed normal to get married in the Baptist church where I was lived--First Baptist of Winter Park, Florida. So we went in and met with the pastor, we attended the church a few times, and I can remember feeling a little uncomfortable each time.

We eventually joined the church--but we joined mainly so we could save a hundred dollars, since church members got a discount for using the church!

But I think my wife and I started growing from that point. Because when we joined, we began a progression that today makes me feel very comfortable in my faith and very happy for where we've come. I have to thank my wife for that, because she has helped give me the discipline to break some of the bad habits that I had and continue to have. Jan's been great.

When we married, we were about equal in our faith. But you're a lot more accountable to someone as a husband than as a boyfriend. And I had to measure up.

The interesting thing to me was that before then I had never read the Bible straight through. Oh, I was pretty good with the sword drills in Sunday school, and I knew all of the stories. But one day, I finally said, "I'm going to read it." So I read the New Testament first, then I read the Old Testament. I grew so much during that whole time frame. It took me about two years to do it, but during that time, God was talking to me, and my faith just continued to grow.

I read other books, including More Than A Carpenter by Josh McDowell and some others by Charles Swindoll. And, being somewhat of a philosophical person, it seemed to me that the factual, archaeological, scientific information that was available to support the Christian faith was overwhelming. It was deja vu for me, because I'd already read so many of the old favorite Bible stories. It became addicting. I wanted to read more; I wanted to learn more. I was thinking, Wow! I want to know this history better. And now, as an adult, I had a whole different perspective than I had as a teenager.

So I continued to grow in the faith, and I eventually began to write Christian songs. I'd written a few songs before that, but the best songs I've done have been Christian oriented. It is all inspired, so it is not really from me. I hope one day to do a Christian album or an album that has some Christian songs on it.

It has been a great walk since my wife and I got married in 1987--those years have been very good.

The Bible study we have out here on the Tour has helped as well. Larry Moody is great; he's there for anybody on the Tour who wants to talk to him about anything, and he's got the right approach to it. I've learned a lot from him.

For instance, I've learned that nobody's perfect, and I think that at times we, as Christians, are critical of the ways other people worship. I don't think that's right. I've learned a lot about grace and how we need to treat each other with grace rather than have a holier-than-thou attitude.

Larry has told us that there are guys on the Tour who are Christians that you would never see at the Bible study--and that's fine too. Some guys are going to be more private about it. Then you see a guy like Paul Anzinger, who was very private with his faith, and yet with what he went through with the cancer, it has opened him up to where he wants to share it now.

We all go to God when we have problems, and we see our country go to God when the country has problems. When we're not having problems, maybe we don't go to Him very much. But when we're down and out, He's always right there.

Memorable Moment

I'll never forget in 1982 playing in the last group in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach on Saturday and finishing fifteenth--which got me into the Master's for the first time and back into the U.S. Open. It was at the end of my first year on the Tour, and I had not played well. I don't think I had finished in the top twenty-five or thirty in any tournament up to that point, so that was a peak. It put me on another plateau; it got me over the hump to where I felt like I belonged on the PGA Tour. That was very meaningful.

In 1985, when I had my best year, I was thirtieth, and my sister Laurie and I won the JCPenney Mixed Teams--that was another high point. My younger brother caddied for Laurie, and my parents were there, so that was something I'll never forget. It was a celebration for my family. Laurie has gone on to do well on the LPGA, and my brother Lee just got his card. My dad was the one who was responsible for our playing golf, and for him to be there and see us beat Curtis Strange and Nancy Lopez was a special moment.

Tip

The strongest part of my game has been the putting and short game. By short game I mean 140 yards and in. I led the Tour in putting in 1990. The thing about putting and the short game is that they're both tied in with the art of scoring. In the art of scoring, you can have a guy who hits the ball well, and you can have a guy who can put the ball on the green, but there is something else about getting that little white ball in that four-inch hole. There are guys that just have a way of getting it in. Maybe they "will" it in, maybe they have magic, but they get it in the hole--and that's the art of scoring.
There's not one top player in the world today who is not a master at the art of scoring, because nobody ever hits every green, and nobody hits every fairway, but they find a way to get the ball into the hole.

A lot of us are guilty of overworking our swing mechanics, our technique, and everything else, but what it really comes down to is this: There's the ball, and you're trying to get it from here to the hole.

That's what separates the men from the boys out here. You've got guys who can hit it well, and you've got guys who can putt it well, and then you've got guys who can make the number and that's where it's all at.

And when I'm playing well, I can do that.

So I believe it is all mental. You have to have a positive outlook. When you stand over a five-foot putt, you've got to believe you're going to make it. If you're feeling unsure and don't feel like you're going to make it, that's going to decrease your chances of making that putt.

And it's something you can work on. You work on trying to control your conscious mind; you work on trying to free it up. Sports psychologists work with athletes in all sports, and the one thing they've found is that all top athletes in all sports are not thinking too consciously while they're making their shots in golf, or walking across the balance beam, or whatever they do.

Sports psychologists refer to the left brain and the right brain. The left brain is your analytical side, and the right brain is your feeling and artistic side. You use your left brain to figure out what you're going to do, and you use your right brain to hit it. There're a lot of sports psychologists out here, and that's what they work on with these guys. They talk to them about it, and they work on controlling emotions--and some days you're going to have better control over your emotions than others.

Most guys who win tournaments will say, "Out of the four days, I had maybe two great days and two mediocre days." Very rarely is someone on four days in a row.

So it's something we work on. I work with Dick Coop, who also works with Payne Stewart and Corey Pavin and a lot of other guys. We work on controlling the conscious mind. If you have a bad thought, Coop says, "Let it out the back door. Don't let it stay in the house." Sometimes you can't control the thoughts that come in your mind, and you think, Gee whiz--that isn't me. But you can control how much attention you give to those thoughts.

Jack Nicklaus is the all-time master of the mental part of the golf game. He always seemed to know what he needed to do to win. And he was able to do it, to rise to that situation or occasion.

And that's what you strive for.

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