April 11, 2003

EVEN GOD CAN'T HIT A ONE IRON...:

Faith on the Fairways: Evangelical Christianity delivers hope, perspective for a significant number of touring pros (Tim Townsend, March 21, 2003, Golf World)
On the par-3 13th hole of her second round at last year's Sybase Big Apple Classic, LPGA pro Jamie Hullett hit her tee shot into abunker. She flubbed her next shot, barely escaping the sand. Hullett, a Christian who was wearing the smiley-face logo of her sponsor, a company called "Life is Good," needed a good finish to play on the weekend, something she wasn't able to do often in 2002. Hullett scrambled for a bogey but clearly was rattled.

At the 14th tee Hullett's caddie and fellow Christian, Maria "Loopy" Lopez, leaned toward her and whispered, "The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still," verse 14 from the 14th chapter of the Bible's book of Exodus. Hullett stepped up to her ball and smacked it down the middle of the fairway.

From the "Church Pew" bunkers at Oakmont CC to Lee Trevino's famous contention that "even God can't hit a 1-iron," religion has always played a role in golf culture. For most professional golfers, the game itself has been a temple with its own spiritual covenant. But for a growing collection of tour pros, religion has become the focus of their lives, and by association, a major part of their game.

"It's not seen as so strange anymore for a player to be open about his faith," says former tour pro and current CBS television announcer Bobby Clampett. "They're no longer called 'The God Squad' or 'Jesus Freaks' like we were 20 years ago. Now it's cool."

Many religions are represented on the major tours, and there are many pros who are as casual about faith as people who don't play golf for a living. But it is the evangelical vein of Christianity that stands out in professional golf and whose presence goes beyond the athletes to touch caddie shacks, broadcast booths, sessions with sport psychologists, charity affiliations, celebrity pro-ams and merchandise vendors.

Evangelicalism is often mistaken for other Christian movements that subscribe to fire-and-brimstone preaching, speaking in tongues or slick televangelism. In truth, the brand of Christianity practiced by tour evangelicals is quiet and thoughtful. Most golf fans will only know which pros are evangelical Christians when they win a tournament and happen to thank Jesus on national television. But evangelical and nonevangelical golfers across the tours acknowledge that a certain sector of each tour has a unique bond: a devoted fellowship with one another in the name of Jesus Christ.


You know the old adage: there are no atheists in U.S. Open rough. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 11, 2003 10:22 AM
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