The Way of an Eagle
by Bob Darden,
P. J. Richardson,
Loren Roberts--dubbed "The Boss of Moss" by fellow golfers because of his putting skills--broke through with a vengeance in 1994. One of a record six members of the Millionaires Club in 1994, Roberts nabbed his first Tour victory, the Nestle Invitational, in dramatic fashion. He enjoyed it so much he won it again a year later in March 1995!
But before you can have a career year, you've got to endure the famine years as well. Roberts was faced to requalify through Q School in 1980, 1982, 1983, 1986 and 1987 before finally becoming a force to be reckoned with in 1989.
A former club pro (he won the 1979 Foot-Joy National Assistant Pro Championship), Robert's gradual rise to the top of his profession has come through dogged persistence and a well-deserved reputation as one of the hardest working pros on the PGA Tour. As a result, he led the Tour in both putting and fourth-round scoring average in 1994. Just another overnight sensation--thirteen years in the making!
My parents gave me a lot of love and support. As far as growing up in a Christian home, there wasn't a born-again situation in my house, but I did grow up in a very moral home. My parents were nominally Christian because they did--and still do--the right things. They paid their taxes, they didn't murder, and they didn't cheat on their spouse. That, to them, was a Christian home. That was the type of situation I was in.
I grew up Presbyterian, and I went to church, I enjoyed to church. I did all of the Westminster Fellowship things in the church, and in high school I enjoyed doing all of the youth group activities. I had a great time with the youth group. I would say I believed, at least that I had head knowledge.
Even today, when I give my testimony, I usually start talking about head knowledge. I didn't have a problem with it, nor did I suffer with it like some people when they hear about Jonah or Abraham offering his son as a sacrifice--all of those kinds of things. They have trouble with them. But I didn't.
Back then, I had the knowledge, but I didn't know how to apply it. I really wasn't worried about those sorts of things at the time--I just didn't think about it. A personal relationship with Christ wasn't something that was important in my life. But being in church was socially important--I really enjoyed that. I had fun.
I didn't start playing golf full time until I was about sixteen or seventeen years old. In fact, it was my sophomore summer in high school when I started playing. I played on my school golf team during my junior and senior years. So I started late, but I eventually became a club professional. I never actually thought about playing the tour competitively. I tell people that it just kind of happened.
Somehow, I qualified for the PGA Tor in 1981, but I didn't have a very good year and lost my card. I came home, got married in 1982, and sat out the Tour that year. I finished up my PGA Class A requirements, came back out, and again qualified for the Tour in the fall of 1982. I came back out for the 1983 season and have played ever since.
But 1983 was just another horrible year, golf-wise. I was struggling. I didn't play well. I didn't swing well. I think I only made about four cuts that whole year.
During that year, though, I went to the Bible study a couple of times at Wally Armstrong's prompting. I met the guys who were involved and like them: Morris Hatalsky, Larry Nelson--there weren't a whole lot of guys back then. I don't think Rik Massengale was even playing at that particular time, or he might have been only playing a limited schedule because he was struggling with back problems.
I missed the cut at Milwaukee and came back home. I was so frustrated! That's the only point in my life to which I can look back and say, "Well, that's when I decided I needed to make some changes in my life."
The main change was getting into a right relationship with God. I was beginning to realize that even though the gospel had been presented to me a couple times when I'd gone to the Bible studies, and even though I had all of this head knowledge, I didn't have the heart knowledge. At least, that's the way I describe it. I needed to apply the head knowledge to my heart to have a personal relationship with Christ.
And at that moment I finally knew what I had to do.
I wish I had some sort of great testimony--a roadside conversion like Saul--but I didn't. But that night I looked at my life and said, "I need to change some things in my life in order to get right with God and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." And that's exactly what happened.
From then on, obviously, it has been a growing process.
In 1993 Larry Moody baptized me in the swimming pool at the Polynesian Resort at Disney World. It was supposed to be at the lake, but the lake was closed, so we had to use the swimming pool. I was baptized with Larry's oldest daughter--which meant an awful lot to me. We've had a bond between us ever since.
Larry Moody's Search Ministries has been a real key in my spiritual life. Besides the organizational end of Search Ministries and the wealth of caring, meaningful messages Larry presents when he comes out with us, Wednesday-night Bible study is basically our church--because we're all hoping and praying that we're still playing on Sunday. Larry provides the leadership. I think he is rock solid in the presentations he makes because he is always presenting the gospel.
We're always trying to reach the other professionals through the Bible study. We want them to be able to come, hear the gospel message, and have it affect their lives. I don't think any of us is interested in a Bible study where a lot of us may understand what's being discussed, but someone new may feel left out in the cold. I think Larry is very good about just presenting the gospel message in a persuasive, informative way, so that any nonbelievers who come do not feel that they're intimidated or that they're left out of the discussion. That's one of the strong points of the study. And I think that's why he's been able to reach some of the guys out here on Tour.
Bernhard Langer got to know the Lord when he was brought to a Bible study by Bobby Clampett. Larry Moody and Bernhard have become close friends, and look what Bernhard has meant to the faith, as far as giving his testimony and starting a Bible study on the European Tour--which is really a tough market to crack.
The Bible study also brings all of the guys together. We're all trying to beat each other's brains out there the rest of the week. We're all trying to win. But there's a common thread to our faith that allows us to be competitive while also allowing us to say, "We're good friends." It enables us to compete--but it also enables us to root for each other when we're having a good tournament.
October is the time of the year when nerves get raw and guys on the bubble start getting worried about facing the prospect of going back to Qualifying School. It's a tough time. But because of the Bible study, guys who have had great years are honestly interested in what some of the other guys who are struggling are going through, and they give them all the support they can. And that's great.
With Jesus, you have the perfect teammate and the perfect coach--one who will call the perfect play every time. Whether it works out or not at that particular moment, it's always going to end up being the right call down the road!
I made my pronouncement of faith in 1983. I needed to get my life back in shape and get my priorities straight--that's when I started my personal relationship with God. But it wasn't until 1993, after I'd been praying about it for some time, that I got to the point where I needed to make a public profession of faith. So that's when I decided I needed to be baptized. That was a personal commitment for me to be better, to work harder at my faith. It was a real motivational thing for me as well.
That process finally got me to the point where I was really able to finally turn things over to the Lord in a tough situation--like the Nestle Invitational at Bay Hill in 1994. I didn't birdie the sixteenth hole when I had a chance to win the tournament. The weekend before, I would have thought, Well, you've blown it. Now you haven't got a chance.
But instead I thought, Anything can happen these last two holes. Then I knocked it onto the green on the seventeenth hole. I was about fifty feet away, and I figured I needed to birdie one of the last two holes to have a chance. I hit a fifty-foot putt about six feet past the hole.
And as I stood over the putt, I whispered a quick prayer, "Lord, please give me the strength to do the best I can. But also help me deal with the emotion. Please help me accept whatever happens and go on from there. I want to do my best, but let me accept whatever happens."
And I knocked it in the hole.
I went on and paired the last hole and won the tournament--my first. I think that was the first time in my life that I was prepared, that I was able to say I would accept the outcome.
The next time it was the U.S. Open when I had a very similar situation. I had a putt on the last hole to win. How many kids are on the putting green dreaming: This is a four-and-a-half-foot putt to win the U.S. Open. That's every young golfer's dream. And I had it. I had that situation on the last hole.
But I didn't make the putt.
Things didn't go the same as they had done the week of the Bay Hill. But the fact that I was able to turn it over to the Lord and accept it made the fact that I lost the tournament a whole lot more palatable.
A lot of people expected me to be devastated over that loss. But now I'm very upbeat about it, even though it's looked at as something that defines a golfer's career. To have that chance and not do it, that's very hard for most people.
But I know that God has the ultimate plan--the best plan for my life. Obviously, I can't float through life and let it all happen. I have to try my hardest, and I also have to give thanks to Him for giving me this talent. And I have to accept whatever happens, because I know in the end, as long as I'm giving 100 percent and trying my hardest, that's the right thing.
The main thing I see--and I see a lot of it playing in pro-ams--deals with putting. Putting is my best stat, especially in 1994, when I led the putting category.
What I see is a lot of amateurs having trouble with speed. I can be on the perfect line, but if the ball is the wrong speed, it's not going to go in. A ball does not have to be on the right line, but if it is somewhere in the area of being the right speed, it might still catch the edge and go into the hole.
Consequently, I try to gear everything to speed. If you were to put an amateur twenty-five feet away from the hole from the hole on the green, he or she would end up no more than two feet off the line either way--even on their worst putt. But I have seen people be ten feet long and twelve feet short from twenty-five feet--and that's terrible.
As a result, you should practice working on your speed. The best way I've found to control the speed of my putts is that I never hit at the putt--I hit through it. If you were to put a yardstick on the green and put the ball in the middle of it, whatever distance your backstroke was--say twelve inches--the swing would need to take the same follow-through--twelve inches.
That makes you develop a stroke where you never ever hit at the ball with a short backstroke and long follow-through or a longstroke back and a short follow-through. That's what you want to avoid. You want the same distance back and through. That promotes a good, flowing putting stroke--a putting stroke where you never, ever hit at the ball.
Think of your putter as a big pendulum and the ball as just something that gets in the way of the putter head. As a result, the ball always comes off the putter head with the same hit and same speed.
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