||One of the finest and most respected players in the game, Bernhard`s introduction to golf came at the age of seven as a caddie at a local club in Bavaria. It was here that his father had settled after escaping from a Russian prisoner of war train en route to Siberia. It soon became clear that Bernhard had a natural talent and he turned professional at the age of 15. His career has been marked by putting problems, but this has not prevented him from compiling a magnificent record which includes two US Masters victories and 34 wins on the European Tour. A devout Christian, he helps to organize the Tour`s Bible Class that meets regularly.
I was 18 years old when I won my first tournament on the European Tour. Thats where I first developed the yips. This is a jerky, uncontrolled putting stroke that sends scores soaring. All of my career Ive struggled to control the yips.
At one point I was yipping so badly that I four-putted from three feet and actually hit the ball twice. Those were extremely difficult times. I often thought about quitting, but the breakthrough came in 1979.
At the age of 22, I won the World Under-25 Championship by a record 17 strokes, making every putt I looked at.
Two years later in 1981, I led the money list in Europe. No one would have ever thought a golfer from Germany could do that.
My best year ever came in 1985my first year as a member of the U.S. Tour. Not only did I win the Mastersthe biggest event of my careerI also won the Heritage Classic in Hilton Head, the Australian Masters, the Casio World Open in Japan, the Sun City Million Dollar event and two events in Europe. I won seven tournaments on five different continents, and was ranked number one in the world. I had a beautiful wife and had achieved everything I could ever have dreamed of.
But something was missing.
My priorities were golf, golf, and more golf, then myself, and finally a little time with my wife. Every now and then, I prayed. I went to church. But if my golf game was not good, my whole life was miserable, and I made everyone around me miserable.
The week after I won the Masters, I was invited by a friend and fellow touring pro to come to the PGA Tour Bible Study.
That night was the first time in my life that I heard that I needed to be reborn. It didnt make any sense to me. Surely, at the age of 28, I could not be born again. So at the end of the study, I asked the teacher what he meant by reborn.
He opened the Bible and showed me John 3:3 which reads: Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
I thought I was a pretty good Christian, but Id never heard this before. He went on to explain what it meant in practical terms. I was amazed to realize that the only way to have eternal life is through Jesus Christthat He died for our sins. And that it is not through our deeds or good behavior that one receives eternal life, because we can never live up to Gods standard. We will always fall short.
After understanding that God loved me so much that He sent His only Son to die for my sins, it was natural for me to ask the Lord into my life.
Ive seen tremendous changes in my life, my marriage, and my whole outlook. My priorities have changed. Theyre now where they should be: God first, family second, and then my career. I believe when your priorities are in the right place everything is managed better.
I have been blessed with a wonderful family, my wife Vikki and our four children, Jackie, Stefan, Christina and Jason. I have experienced not only their love for me but also for God.
Over the years I have seen my golf career continue to have success as well. I have had the privilege of winning the Masters a second time, been inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame and now received the honor of being the Ryder Captain for Europe.
I encourage you to consider your own relationship with God through Christ. It is a decision I have never regretted.
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