SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–Instead of packing golf clubs and tearing up the greens in mid-February, professional golfer Tracy Hanson packed her personal testimony and “Jesus pins” and headed to Salt Lake City for the Winter Olympics.
Trading green grass for icy breezes and hordes of people — a result of an unexpected tour rescheduling — Hanson joined with other Action Ministries International volunteers in sharing the love of Christ with people from all over the world.
Hanson, a member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) since 1995, turned professional in 1993 after playing collegiate golf at San Jose State University where she won 10 collegiate titles and was a member of the 1992 NCAA national championship team.
In Salt Lake City, Hanson, who has previously shared her testimony through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and through a story in “Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul,” was able to join with the Action Ministries team to share her testimony in a more direct way.
“Most of the time I speak to groups of people as a professional athlete and share my testimony without a lot of one-on-one interaction,” said Hanson, who said working with Action Ministries has given her the opportunity to go beyond routine. “I felt God saying, ‘You’re to go.'”
Although Hanson grew up playing golf, she said her family withdrew from going to church as she entered high school.
“We just stopped going,” said Hanson, who said sports, basketball and skiing became a priority although she lived in a “morally based” household.
“The concept of God was there,” Hanson said, “but the daily fellowship with Jesus wasn’t there.”
It wasn’t until high school was over and she was a 17-year-old about to embark on a college career that God used the quiet of a long road trip to get Hanson’s attention.
Scared and lonely, Hanson drove her four-door blue Mazda from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where she lived with her parents on a nine-hole public golf course, to San Jose State University where she would ultimately become a four-time All-American. On the way Hanson began to think of her future and reflected on an inspiration book written for athletes.
“I was on my way from Idaho to California to go to school when God prompted me to ask Christ into my life,” Hanson said, recounting that she waited another year and then finally got involved in Campus Crusade for Christ and Athletes in Action and developed a group of Christian friends.
Growing spiritually all along, Hanson said it wasn’t until the last five years as she suffered through a relationship break-up and faced the loss of her mother to cancer that she became closer to God and his will.
“God has really been doing a lot in my life in the last five years,” Tracy said, eyes instantly filling with tears. “I finally found him in my heart and not just my head.”
Hanson lives in Ormond Beach, Fla., when she is not on tour. On tour, she makes do with living between airplanes and hotel rooms, which can be a lonely existence and difficult at times. Communicating by e-mail and phone with her family members and friends helps her to stay connected, and surrounding herself with “likeminded” people helps her stay focused.
Hanson said living on the tour which runs from February through December is not necessarily the “fun and exciting” lifestyle many people associate with professional sports. She relies on a fellowship of other Christian women who meet regularly for Bible study and prayer and a consistent organized worship time that becomes church time each week.
“My biggest challenge is staying consistent in my spiritual life and in my physical skill as a golfer,” Hanson said. “It takes a lot of patience and understanding that there are going to be the little valleys — and some days are good and some days a little difficult.
“But God still loves me regardless of what I do or how I do it,” Hanson said.
Winning the Indonesian Open in 1994 was Hanson’s crowning moment on the tour — the one she still tries to repeat every week on the tour. Her silver winner’s platter sits on the shelf in her condominium in Ormond Beach.
Hanson begins this year’s tour Feb. 28 at the LPGA Takefugi Classic at the Waikoloa Beach Resort in Big Island, Hawaii. But even the warm sands and crashing waves won’t distract her from what’s most important while she’s there — or anywhere else on the tour.
“Golf is something I do. It’s not what drives me in my life,” Hanson said. “At one time it was who I was and what I did, but I know that golf is something God has gifted me in and given me for a period of time, not only to make a living but to share my faith and love for him.”
A bigger dream on the horizon for Hanson is her desire to be married and have a family, at which time she plans to give up the tour altogether.
“My heart is to give up golf when God bring marriage or family to my life,” Hanson said. “First and foremost, my passion is to the Lord and I think he’s still revealing new passions to me every day.”
Read more about Tracy Hanson at www.tracyhanson.com. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: GOD, THEN GOLF.