At 25 years old, I had just beaten the best, Jack Nicklaus. Although I had had success winning the U.S. Amateur while in college and had won on the PGA Tour after my first year in 1982, 1983 was my breakout year. First, I won the TPC in March and now I had just won the PGA against Jack. I was being heralded as the next Jack Nicklaus - pretty heady stuff for a young player. These two wins had thrust me into the #1 position on the money list. It was an exciting time of my life.
Fast forward to seventeen years after my first win at the TPC. It was March, 2000 at the Tournament Players Championship in Ponte Vedra. Here I stood with one hole to go. I realized I could win this prize a second time and beat the undisputed best golfer in the world, Tiger Woods. Standing on the 18th fairway, I hit my second shot. As the ball left the club I said, Be the right club today! When it landed only 8 feet in front of the hole I let out a Yes! I turned and slapped the hand of my longtime caddy and friend, Freddy Burns. Tiger looked over and gave me two thumbs up. I won again!
Several reporters have described my career as a set of bookends - success at the front and back with some blank space in between.
People have asked me why my golf game disappeared. Golf with its rewards and achievements came so easily and quickly. But golf did not bring me personal happiness, so I began to look to other things for my happiness. With all the money I had made I thought I could buy happiness. Ive always loved fast cars, so first I bought a Porsche. When that didnt fill the emptiness, I bought a house. When that didnt do it either, I bought an airplane. None of these things brought me the happiness I was looking for.
I even pursued a better swing, seeking out golf teacher after golf teacher because I didnt trust the swing that had brought me to the dance. Perhaps more wins would bring happiness? I looked in lots of places for happiness and never found it. Like a lot of folks, Ive made mistakes and have the regrets to go with them.
My search for happiness changed a few years ago. I was blessed when my wife, Ashley, came into my life. Life with Ashley and the birth of our girls have caused me to ask the bigger questions of life like, Why am I here? Who is God and does He care about me? Can He help me be a good husband and father?
Although I always believed in God, I didnt always understand that my relationship with God wasnt based on what I did for God but what He did for me. Jesus Christs death paid the penalty for my mistakes and sins and made it possible to have a right relationship with God. I dont remember the exact hour or day when I first understood that, but I know that I made a decision to personally accept Christs payment for my sins.
Being a father of three wonderful girls, Samantha, Sarah and Sadie has also helped me to understand God the Fathers love for me. The adoption of our son, Holt, has given me even greater clarification on my relationship to God. In His Word God tells me that I am adopted into the family of God. I now understand how very special and permanent that is. I love my four children so much, and to think that God loves me even more than I love my daughters and son...Its amazing!
Its a thrill to win a major championship. Its a greater honor to be captain of the Ryder Cup team. But the greatest privilege of my life is to be a child of God. You can have this personal relationship with God, too. I hope you take the time to explore the reality of who God is and what He has to offer you.
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