LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Some of the best golfers in the world are striving for more than a championship trophy or prize money.
Scattered throughout each Professional Golf Association tournament standings are players whose Christian faith is making an impact on who they are and what they communicate to fans and co-competitors.
“God has had a tremendous influence on many players on the PGA Tour,” said Bobby Clampett, a former player and now a golf commentator for CBS Sports.
Clampett and others say a growing number of PGA competitors are using the rising popularity of golf to share their faith with others.
“The voice of a professional golfer is listened to with real eagerness right now,” said Jeff Hopper, editor of Links Letter, a newsletter that both promotes Christian fellowship among golf amateurs and profiles Christians on the PGA, Ladies PGA and Senior PGA tours.
The popularity of Tiger Woods and, to a lesser degree, the death of Payne Stewart have raised the visibility of all PGA golfers, said Hopper, who is based in Fresno, Calif.
“There are a lot of players who are becoming more interested in speaking out [about their faith] who are finding ways to do that,” he said.
Some give credit to God during post-event interviews. Others are profiled in Christian sports magazines like Sports Spectrum or in evangelistic brochures, Hopper said.
Some lend their notoriety to a specific cause, he added. Betsy King, the all-time LPGA leading money winner, is a longtime supporter of Habitat for Humanity, the Christian housing ministry.
The Players Outreach Ministry is another outlet for players who want to tell others about their faith. This season, the ministry coordinated about 10 events at tournaments around the country, hosting a forum to bring players and fans together.
Preceding the Aug. 17-20 PGA Championship in Louisville, Ky., for example, Clampett and 1996 British Open winner Tom Lehman were among the professionals to speak at an evangelistic dinner co-sponsored by the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Among the players themselves, one of the most influential Christian witnesses is the PGA Tour Bible study, hosted by chaplain Larry Moody. The study was founded in 1996 and is growing in participation each year, Clampett said.
“Many players and their families have discovered what it means to have a personal relationship with the living God and have drawn that relationship into the very fiber of their lives,” he said. “Personal lives have changed, marriages have been strengthened, careers have been impacted and many have been touched by the grace of God.”
Last year’s fatal plane malfunction that killed Payne Stewart and others caused several golfers to do serious soul-searching and talk with Moody and other Christians on the tour, Hopper added.
“There are several players who began asking questions far more seriously and at least one or two who made a definite commitment to the Lord because of the answers that they received to their questions after Payne’s death,” he said.
Whether it’s the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville or elsewhere, players face constant stress on the tour, and the Bible study helps many players keep a proper perspective, Clampett added.
“The golf circuit is based on worldly values; performance equals importance. The better you play, the more important you are in the public eye, the more you are given and served,” he said.
“As a believer, a unique challenge exists to understand one’s role of serving others when others are always there wanting to serve you,” he said. “Such a platform gives us golfers a unique opportunity to make an impact for Jesus Christ among our fellow men.”
Information about the Links Letter may be obtained by calling 1-800-90LINKS or by e-mail at [email protected].