“How about this? He bogied the first hole and bogied the eighteenth, and everything else in between was absolutely perfect. It is not often you smile after a miss but you can if you’re Bernhard Langer. The Master’s champion of 1993.”
When Bernhard Langer finished school at fifteen he knew he wanted to become a professional golfer. To pursue his dream he moved from his German hometown to Munich where he worked as an assistant professional. A few months later at his first tournament he competed against twenty-five German pros and won. At seventeen he became the youngest person to win the National German closed championship. Although he’s had it’s ups and downs with bogies and his holes in one, Bernhard has persevered to become a world class golfer. After winning the US Masters in 1985 however his focus changed from golf to God. Here’s Bernhard Langer to tell you his life story:
It’s a privilege to be here today to speak to you about the most meaningful things in my life. One of them is my wife, Vicki,, who has lovingly supported me for the last ten years and we have been blessed with three beautiful children. I can tell you endless golf stories and golfing events but the real person under that cool confident exterior has a lot more to say to the world. If only the world would ask where I get my strength from. How I endure hard times and still remain so content. Well it’s no secret and I’m delighted to share it with you.
I grew up in a little town in German about thirty miles from Munich. My father was a brick layer and my mother was a housewife. I’m the youngest of three children. In those days we were very poor. I never received any pocket money and had to wear hand me downs from my older brother. My dad could not afford a car so we all used bicycles for transportation.
I went to our local school where four grades were all in one room. Up to fifth grade my parents decided to put me in a high school where I had to study all day so that I would have the same opportunity as my brother and sister had. The reason I’m telling you this is because I intentionally failed in English and mathematics so I would be sent back to school in our town which meant I could continue going to the golf course every afternoon. I had my priorities right didn’t I?
At the age of eight I started caddying to earn some money. There were eight boys from our town that caddied on a regular basis. We were paid five marks, which is about three dollars for eighteen holes. The golf course was five miles away so we rode our bicycles to get there and back. Out of those eight guys, three became golf professionals. We got four old clubs from a member and all the caddys shared them. Those four clubs were a two club, a three iron, a seven iron, and a putter with a bent shaft. Maybe that’s where all my putting problems came from. Not having a wedge or a sand wedge was quite a struggle. On the other hand it forced us to improvised which might have been very helpful in the long run. After four years of caddying I saved up enough money for my first set of golf clubs and boy was I proud of them. They got polished and taken care of as if they were made of gold and diamonds.
In the early years of my life I grew up in a religious home. I went to a Roman Catholic church on a regular basis and served as an altar boy for seven years. I always believed in God and was very religious, but I missed my need for a personal relationship with God. By being religious I mean that I tried to keep all the rules. Like not eating meat on Fridays, going to church as often as possible, and going to confession. All of these things are good but according to the Bible they will not get me into heaven.
At the age of fifteen I finished school and had decided what I wanted to do with my future. I went to an Institute and when asked what I was interested in and what I wanted to do, I replied that I wanted to be a golf professional. The person that interviewed me said that he had never heard of that. He left the room to see if he could find any documents on such a profession. After twenty minutes he came back with a ruffled look on his face and said there was no such thing as a golf professional and he would strongly advise me to do something else. I knew that there were about two hundred golf professionals in Germany and that they all made a living. I was able to convince my parents that this was all I wanted to do and they finally gave in.
One month later in August of 1972 I started my first job as an assistant professional in Munich. Munich was one and a half hours by car away from home which meant that I had to rent a room and live on my own which was quite a change. I commuted by bicycle and had a wonderful time working on the golf course all day and playing a lot of golf. I was always fairly short in size but wanted to hit the ball as far as a grown adult. This made me develop a strong grip so I could hook the ball and make it go further. Even now my grip rate is amongst the strongest in professional golf. I have read comments from players that with a grip like mine you’re not going to make it. Gary Player was my idol because he’s my size, he’s a fitness fanatic which I used to be, he has to travel long distances to get the tournaments as I do, and he has a personal relationship with Christ.
My first tournament as an assistant pro, in fact in my life because I was never an amateur, came a few months later at our club in Munich. Twenty-five of our best German professional traveled to Munich for the thirty-six hole event. I was still fifteen years old and none of the other fellows had ever met or heard of me. To make a long story short, I won the event and surprised everyone. When I was seventeen I won the National German Golf Championship in a play off with two others and became the youngest winner of that event. At that tournament a businessman who golfed watched me play and said to me If I ever wanted to try to tour he would help me financially. I was very excited about that prospect and told them that I had one year to go with my apprenticeship but once that was over with I would be very interested.
One Sunday morning at my club I had arranged for a game with three people from my club. As usual I came a half hour early to hit some balls and warm up and a weirdest thing happened on the driving range. I was shanking every single ball out of the pocket. I made my way over the first tee with shaking knees knowing how much these guys play for. We ended up playing for what I considered a lot of money. The amount was about my income for three months at the time. With my horrendous warm up I did not feel very confident. The only good thing though was the first hole was a par five and the first two shots were with woods and you can’t shank woods. As is turned out I shot sixty-eight that day and took all three of them to the cleaners.