The Masters!! The Masters for goodness sakes. First time and I don't have a hotel room or a clue as to how things work, where you park, what gate to enter, etc. etc??
Who cared? It was the Masters and I was there. I had a four-day ticket, which is unthinkable, so, of course, I went every day. I, honestly, can't remember exactly what my impressions were as it was so long ago, but, the memories I do have center around the clubhouse as I was dodging back and forth looking for the PGA Tour Chaplain whom I finally found. Our meeting was about 10 - 15 minutes. He encouraged me, but, was non-committal on any relationship we might have in the future. I was a bit disappointed, but, maybe I expected too much. I later found I expected too much most times there was a ministerial opportunity.
The Masters was one of the most incredible events I had ever attended. I'll also admit that I imbibed a bit too much on Saturday while standing behind the 16th Tee Box for almost 6 hours. Nothing crazy happened during that time except the amazing visualization of tee balls exploding off of the Pros' clubfaces and the trajectory of the shots. It was amazing. What an experience!!
I was very interested in following Bobby Clampett as he was an amateur, the top amateur in the world as far as I knew, and, for some reason, I wanted to watch him play while I had to opportunity. This would pan out to be an evidence of God's leading in the future.
Funny, as I was driving away from Augusta National on Saturday, I stopped at a convenience store and passed Scott Simpson as he walked out of the store. He was buying some beer and snacks. Ha, I didn't have the courage to say anything to him.
My time at the Masters was incredible, but, honestly, it had very little impact on what I believed the Lord was calling me to do with Kingdom Corporate Golf.
One of the things I hadn't thought about including in these stories, but, just hit me, was "who was I during that time and what was the Lord doing to and through me?" Here I was seeking God's guidance, His blessing and His providence regarding this ministerial idea, but, didn't recognize until just now that I was not in any way worthy of any of these things.
Why do I say that?
Well for one thing, the Lord had told me I was going to be an agent for Christian golfers and I told God that was ridiculous! I ignored what He told me and walked in a different direction; my direction.
Secondly, what was my private life like? OK, get ready cause I'm gonna get transparent here.....
I was a mess! I was a Believer in Jesus Christ. I was reading the Bible and having regular devotionals or private time with Him. I was attending church and fellowship groups. I was reading the Bible with my children and getting to know our Chaplain at our Base. I was a Christian, y'know!!
I was a fraud!! Again, it's so long ago I can't remember everything, but, what was my private life like? What was my character? I was incredibly selfish. I had a lust problem. I had a drinking problem. Did I say how selfish I was??
God tests us to see if our character is pure. “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart” (Proverbs 17:3
I look back on that time and now realize why the Lord was hesitant to bless me and my ideas. I wasn't surrendered to Him, really.
But, golf?? What about the passion for golf??
Well, it never waned. In fact, it intensified, but, circumstances dictated that I focus on my military career and care for my family, so, I did. Two military assignments turned into three and four and four turned into 20 years of assignments in the US Army. What a blessing and an honor to retire from the US Army as a Lieutenant Colonel having finalized the time with a Provisional Battalion command of nearly 1250 people.
In 1989, during an assignment in Athens, Greece I was thinking and praying about my career focus following retirement from the Army. I was so much focused on my faith that I was seeking a ministry career, but, that passion for golf was so strong, I was praying that I could combine the two; golf and ministry. How could that be?
How the heck am I gonna get to the Masters?
Well, honestly, without reservation, I must tell you that the Lord was very clear in His answer to my question. He said, "You will be an agent for Christian golfers." What??!! Those of you that may be as old as me know that at that time the greatest example of a golf agent was Mark McCormack, the President of AIG representing Arnold Palmer and later Jack Nicklaus. The picture of Mark came into my mind so I immediately responded, "That's crazy, no way." (Looking back, that may have been an improper response. We'll see why, soon.)
I was incredibly impacted by this "word", but, didn't believe it. In fact, I said, "That's ridiculous!" So, I began walking in a different direction to establish a golf consulting business with the following focus; consult with businesses/corporations on how to conduct high-quality golf events and bring in Christian PGA Tour Pro's to give their testimony about their lives as Christ-followers. I can't remember where that idea originated, but, I was convinced it was an appropriate direction to go.
My next assignment was in San Francisco at the Presidio Army Base. I began to study about conducting high-level golf events and started calling around to discover how to engage with these PGA Tour Pros. An amazing set of events happened and through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes I found out about the Links Letter, now Links Players Ministry. I was introduced to the Chaplain of the PGA Tour by phone and invited to meet with him at the Masters that year, 1991.
The Masters?? How the heck am I gonna get to the Masters? Low and behold, the Post (Presidio) Morale and Recreation Department had a lottery each year for four four-day passes to the Masters. I put my name in the hat and miraculously won one of the tickets!! No kidding!!!
I went to the Masters for the first time ever and the journey continued.
Are you a Believer in Jesus Christ and a passionate golfer?
I bet you might be similar to me and my story; I became passionate about the game of golf when I was very young. I did everything I could to get on the golf course and improve my game. I couldn't get enough of the game, but, I really didn't have the money or family history to be a member of a golf club or able to spend days and days and hours a day working on my game.
But, the passion was there, so I did everything I could to improve my game, compete and have the ultimate goal of becoming a PGA Tour Player. The passion was kindled as I made my high school golf team and competed fairly well. I wasn't familiar with the opportunity to play college golf, but, thankfully, I got a college scholarship through the US Army (ROTC) and attended a college in Vermont. Yeah, that's right, Vermont where the golf season is about 5 months at the most. But, I had this passion, right, so I did everything I could to work on my game and was a regular member of the golf team.
Because I had an ROTC Scholarship, I had to go in the Army for a minimum of four years. My intention was to "do the time", get out and continue my pursuit of a PGA Tour Professional.
When it came time to stay in the service or get out; I was blessed enough ... to make the decision to stay in The military.
Well, the best laid plans, right??
I met the woman of my dreams my Junior year of college, got married right after graduation and headed into the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant. We were stationed in Germany for our first three-year assignment where golf, certainly wasn't the first, second or third priority. Well, maybe my wife would attest that golf was my second priority and, I almost lost her and my family because of making golf that high a priority. We had a baby during this time as well, so golf took a lower and lower priority.
What happened to the dream?
I had it in my mind still, but, our second child and a new assignment in the States continued to push the golf dream further and further down the list. When it came time to stay in the service or get out; I was blessed enough, even without a personal relationship to Jesus Christ, to make the decision to stay in the military and attend flight school rather than get out to play professional golf.
The next four years, I had two more military assignments, but, the most significant thing in my entire life happened in 1981; I became a committed Believer in Jesus Christ as my Savior. Now the priorities became even better established as I made the Lord first, wife second, family third, job fourth and the rest (where's golf) of the priorities behind any of those. Who had time??
The Lord blessed my time in the military with becoming a man, husband and father and, through His word and a bit of fellowship, I became a mature follower of Jesus Christ. What a miracle.
But, golf?? What about the passion for golf?? Read more.......
Could the attributes of the Christ-follower be infused into a program similar to The First Tee?
The answer is, “Yes”. Through Wally Armstrong and myself as well as a few others we have developed a similar program in order to bring kids into the game at the next level where they are introduced to real golf clubs and real golf balls as well as practicing and playing on real golf courses. Christian attributes such as “Creation, “the Fall”, “Redemption”, and “Consummation”. are introduced as curriculum learning tools similar to what The First Tee does. We are calling this program; “Growing Your Golfer Into Greatness” (GYGIG).
“The initial start of the program or curriculum for this 6 hole GYGIG will be the “Story of Glory”....
From the book, “Does God Care Who Wins?” Bob Schindler writes;
"and in bringing this up, we want us to recognize the struggle. we want to see how this “Glory” struggle is at the core of the question, at the core of all sports, really, at the core of all life. We also want us to understand this Glory struggle, because that understanding is critical to the right answer to our question of whether God cares who wins and resolving the tension.
Initially, we want to affirm that, while the struggle between the pursuit of our glory and God's glory has been there for a long time, it hasn't always been that way. To get some perspective, let me ask you, how do you view Christ followers? If you were to outline the message of Christ following, what would you say? Do you see it as a set of propositional truths as like; God loves people, or Jesus died for Sinners? Maybe a list of do's and don'ts? If that is how you view Christ Followers, we are seriously limiting the good news of the Gospel message of those who follow Christ. According to Frederick Buechner, there is no less danger and darkness in the Gospel than there is in The Brothers Grimm, but beyond and above all, there is the joy of it, this tale of a light breaking into the world that not even the darkness can overcome. That is the Gospel? This meeting of Darkness and Light in the final victory of Light. That is the fairytale of the Gospel with, of course, one crucial difference from all other fairy tales, which is that the claim made for it is that it is True, that it not only happened once upon a time but has kept on happening ever since and is happening still.
How one views this story impacts our ability to answer the question; “Does God Care Who Wins?”. When we limit the Good News, the Gospel of Christ-following, to a set of do's and don'ts, we also limit our ability to effectively answer our question. We end up with simplistic answers that don't satisfy our souls or glorify God. However, when we see the Gospel as The Story of All Stories, as the story from which all stories gain their source, we gain important keys to resolving our question in a soul satisfying and God glorifying way.
The Gospel, this story, has been referred to in different ways. Pastor Randy Pope refers to the story as the story of Glory. Others have referred to the Gospel as a story of redemption with four chapters and this is what we will focus upon; the four chapters of the story of Glory; Creation, the Fall, Redemption, and Consummation.
To gain those important Keys, let's briefly review this story.
Number One, Creation
In the beginning, in the chapter titled Creation, God made all there is from nothing. He didn't need to create because he was alone. He made all of creation out of his self giving nature. Creation was a way for God to spend himself.
All that he made was good. His authority and care spread over all of his good creation. It flourished as it was designed to flourish.
In his creating, God made people, a man and a woman. He gave them a unique role in the flourishing design for creation. God declares this role prior to his creation of them. Let us make man in our image, in our likeness. So God made man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. God intended them for Glory a greatness, a magnificent, as His Image bearers, unique among all of his creation. When he then makes them in His image, he endows them with his glory, or as the scripture States He crown him with glory and honor. At this point in the story, there is no glory Struggle. No pension. God gives glory to the people and the people go to give glory to God as they live and live out this design. Since God and thousand with his glory as His Image bearers question the people are confident and what they have been given. From this confidence, their focus is on others, not on themselves. They move toward each other to express, not establish, their Glory, this greatness God has given them, and to benefit the other and bring honor to The God Who endowed them their glory. In doing so, they flourish as image bearers for God, with all of creation responding in honor of that greatness.
Second - The Fall.
Here, the story radically changes and not for the better. In creation, God gave the man and the woman great freedom to express His Image over Creation with one exception. With only one restriction, amazingly and foolishly, they doubt his goodness and rebelled. They think it would be better to have all the glory of being his image bearers without God is there a thority, their Source, their guide. In doing so, they move away from God as they disobey the good God who had given them so much.
Great was the impact of this move. All creation was corrupted. I struggle even to put into words the greatness of that impact in a way that doesn't diminish the reality. We see this contamination all around us and within us. We live with the breadth and depth of the defilement everyday. No one escapes the desecration now resident around and within us.
Nothing was left unharmed including all people, every person. We have all been marred, defiled, broadly and deeply. One aspect of that corruption is our loss of Glory, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God “
In our rebellion and talk corruption, we are now separated from God, without the relationship we once had with him. With no source of confidence in what we have been given, we feel inadequate and wonder if we have what it takes, in Woodley knowing the truth And fearing exposure. Having left the source we need to guide our expression, we feel lost, disconnected, unaccepted, and alone. We try and fail and feel the shame of failure over and over. This move from God has cost us much, including our Glory. Because of that reality, while we may not acknowledge it, even to ourselves, we know something is not right.
From this place, we are on a search for Glory, a Relentless search to establish the glory which we were endowed with by God. Image bearers we stayed, but the image is now flawed, Mard. Our focus is turned inward toward ourselves, rather than outward toward others, as it was in the first chapter when the relationship of God gave him confidence in their Glory.
Here the struggle of Glory is now fully in place. We foolishly think to glorify God will cost us glory. We still doubt his goodness and move to make ourselves great. There is probably not a realm in life with the establishment of this loss blurry is well clearly seen then in sports. All the levels, all the awards, all the Championships are, at the core, and attempt to regain our lost Glory, To prove to ourselves and to others something about this lost greatness and honor that was ours in the first chapter.
There is a problem with these efforts, however. We long for the glory, the greatness in honor, that we were given by God in creation. This is the most “creaturely of pleasures -- nay, the specific pleasure of the inferior the pleasure of a beast before men, a child before its father, a pupil before his parent come a creature before its creator.” As CS Lewis reminds us. However, the Earthly Glory we move to establish, no matter how great, can never fill the longing for the Heavenly glory in our hearts.
We have already mentioned Tom Brady's admission of this reality. (Pg 33, “In 2005 Tom Brady said why do I have 3 Superbowl rings and still think there's something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, hey man, this is what it is. I reached my goal, my dream, my life. I think, “God it's got to be more than this.””.) For this Glory that we so passionately pursuing Sports is transitory in nature. It cannot satisfy Rd prolonging. The line is long of those who are honest and acknowledge the lack of satisfaction in this Earthly Glory.
God said it would be this way when he spoke to the man and the woman after their Rebellion. He said life without him would be a life of pain, with failure and futility as significant Parks. Life without him cannot by Design ever satisfied. God made us invented us as a band invention engine a car made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on himself. He himself is the fuel our Spirits were designed to burn, or the food our Spirits with designed to feed on. There is no other God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself, because cuz it is not there.
The story at this point is a tragic one. Without God, the happiness, peace, and joy of living out our Glory as image bearers is now gone. We are left searching for, longing for something we cannot find here. We would be left in the struggle of establishing our Glory our Glory versus God's glory unsatisfied in our Pursuit, without hope of ever finding resolution
God has every right to let it end this way tragically.
Again, from the book, “Does God Care Who Wins?” by Bob Schindler.
Wally Armstrong has developed the kit called SNAG or Starting New at Golf. This game or kit is the next level of golf for those who may have been introduced to the game through Go - Start - Golf, but, now with similar golf equipment, are able to hit the ball farther, play games more like the actual golf game, and compete. For instance, we use a larger area in which we set up longer holes, establish more difficult targets within the game in order to make the game even more challenging, fun and establish that next level of competition. This competition is established in the larger area like a driving range or a 6 Hole Golf Course or, even, in a park where the holes are set up similar to the golf course layout. Similar to the GSG kit a curriculum is developed where kids are playing games, competing against each other, counting the strokes made as well as the number of points they'll get from hitting targets. Again, this is a competitive environment that is fun for kids; a little bit larger or more in-depth than the GSG kit. Now we are able to draw in the next age group, drawn into the church or the community for recreation and enjoyment as well as competition so that this game can be expanded to the place of interest through those who are drawn and, remember, within Psalm 139 may even have the purpose of God placed in them to be drawn to this wonderful game that mimics life.
So how do we do that?
Again the church or a camp or some other activity that is focused upon drawing people in for Fellowship for introduction to the church and its family in order to invigorate them to be part of this community and therefore potentially drawing their families into the church or into the fellowship in order for them to be introduced to Jesus Christ, as well as, potentially, discipled through the game of SNAG which is mimicking the game of golf and life..
We have identified the introductory portion of the game of golf and, hopefully, inspired more than a few kids to continue with their golf game at the next level.
What could that next level be? Well, currently the next step would be either the First Tee program which has been established by the USGA and the Tiger Woods Foundation, etc, as well as the PGA Junior Golf Program and, even, individual lessons given to youngsters who have the capacity to improve their golf swing and become more consistent with their game.
We’ll focus here on the First Tee program because not only does the First Tee program focus upon learning the game of golf and how to compete and how to play all types of shots in the game, but, it introduces character attributes. Attributes such as honesty and fair play as well as courtesy and many others. This is very healthy, but what about the attributes of the Christ Follower? Could these attributes be infused into a program similar to The First Tee?
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