In 1988 experienced a critical low in my career. I had my third attack of my health problem for five months in a row which means not making a paycheck and having lots of expenses week after week. I was very close to quitting and I didn’t know why God was putting me through this trial. I couldn’t see my way out of this dark tunnel. Then one day a Christian friend came to visit and spent the day talking and praying with me and assured me that God didn’t want me to quit golf but to persevere and continue. Although his words were not totally clear to me at the time, I felt the sense of peace and assurance that things would work out. Sure enough after trying twenty to thirty different techniques, and ending up with a very unconventional putting grip which everybody laughed at, the tunnel became clearer. It was a slow process but my scores started to improve. Some reporters asked me the question, Is there not a conflict between Christianity and being a tough competitor? I strongly believe that I can win tournaments and play the best I can without wishing my fellow competitors bad luck or trying any kind of gamesmanship on them.
My most meaningful victory since I became a born again Christian came in 1993 when I won the US Masters again. This time it was even more special since I won it on Easter Sunday which it’s the day when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus rose from the dead after being dead for three days just as the prophets and Psalms said would happen. It means a lot to me to represent my country at the World Cup and the Rider Cup and other championships but it means far more to be a part of the team of Jesus Christ.
In 1991 I was one of twelve Europeans to play against the twelve Americans for the Rider Cup. It is the most important team competition in professional golf. It is the Super Bowl of Golf. My team captain put me in the so called anchor position which is the last player out on the course. My opponent was Hale Irvin and when we played the fifteenth hole the US team had a one point lead and I was two holes down with four holes to play. I won the fifteenth and seventeenth hole to draw even. If I could win the last hole and gain a point for Europe we would have the match and keep the Rider Cup trophy in Europe because we won it the previous time.
It all came down to the last putt of the last hole in the last match on the last day. Hale Irvin made a five and I faced a six foot putt to win the match and retain the Rider Cup for Europe. By far the most important stroke in my career and millions of people in thirty-two countries were watching on TV. I was praying for courage, strength, and a quiet hand. I didn’t want to let my teammates down. I wanted to make that putt and become the hero of the Rider Cup. I missed, as you saw, and as the ball slid over the right edge of the hole, the American crowd cheered and celebrated their team. All I could feel was pain, agony, and disappointment. It would have been easy to blame God and say, Why did you let this happen to me? Why me? A nightmare like that can easily destroy one’s confidence and even career. I felt God wanted to test my faith and see if I really do love and trust Him no matter what might happen. By having an eternal perspective and a personal relationship with Christ I was able to cope with it. I looked at it this way, there was only one perfect man in this world and they crucified Him. All I did was miss a putt.
Two days later I played the German Masters in Stuttgart and I faced many reporters who all asked the same question and I realized that people would remind me for the rest of my life what happened on that Sunday afternoon. I received hundreds of letters from all over world from people who felt for me and wanted to encourage me. The next Sunday I faced a fifteen foot putt on the last hole of the German Masters to get into a playoff and it was very hard to block out the negative thoughts of what had happened seven days earlier but I made the putt and went on to win the playoff and the trophy. With God’s grace and the encouragement of my family and friends I went on to win more prize money than any golfer had ever won in one year. God has truly blessed me and I want to thank Him for my talents and gifts to play this game so well.
Today I’m wearing a very special tie. This tie was given to me by Tom Kite at the ‘93 Rider Cup match held in England. At the victory dinner on Sunday night all the American players got up from their seats walked over to the European player that he had played against that day took off his tie and put it around the neck of his opponent. For a few minutes we seemed no longer competitors but brothers joining together.
Although we had lost the Rider Cup earlier in the day and I was very disappointed I know I’m a winner every time I walk with Jesus. I’m still at the early stages of my spiritual life with the Lord but I already know what a difference it has made. The Lord has given me peace, patience, confidence, and a sense of security that I did not have without Him. I could only wish the same for you. When I ask people for their goals is usually shows a sad picture. Seldom do I get a clear answer and I have to ask myself, “Why do they go full speed without knowing where they’re going?’ Many of them seem like a lost rally driver. They rush about here and there always in a great hurry. Always full power, full speed, and when you ask them where they’re headed they don’t know and they’re unprepared.
The person who realizes what this means has to stop and turn around. What good is it to go the fastest speed when you’re going in the wrong direction. I hope you make the right choice and follow the footsteps of Jesus on the road to heaven. The most important things in this world are my relationship with God and my relationship with other believers. These are the relationships that will last forever. I hope and pray that all of you will experience the same joy and peace that I now know. By the way, I will give free golf lessons in heaven. I pray that I will see you there. Thank you.
I hope you enjoyed listening to my life story. Today may be the first time that you’ve heard anyone talk about these things and I would like to give you an opportunity to respond right now. If you would like to make a decision to allow Christ to be on the throne of your life just like I did years ago why don’t pray this prayer with me.
Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive you as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be. In Jesus name, Amen.
If you prayed that prayer with me, I would like to take a few more minutes to share with you how you can continue on your spiritual journey. I would encourage you to begin reading God’s word daily, beginning with the gospel of John. Second, I would suggest you find a Bible teaching church and attend there on a regular basis. Thirdly, pray and be open and honest with God. He knows what you’re going through and finally, take the initiative to tell others about your decision to follow Christ. Playing golf has been an important part of my life but my first priority is my relationship with Christ. The things that I’ve talked about today are important. I want you to know that God really cares for you and me in our spiritual walk. Please call today. God bless you on your spiritual journey.