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It was "Dad's church" or "Mom's church" " never "my" church. Or my faith, really. They both had very strong personal beliefs, and neither one wanted to attack the other. It wasn't exactly a hands-off subject at the house, but it was definitely Dad had his and Mom had hers. So my brother and I were kind of a little bit of both and not much of either. So I wasn't totally Catholic and I wasn't totally Presbyterian; I just kind of floated along. Both of my parents felt very strong about their own faiths, and yet I didn't have a lot of training in either. So it was up to us kids as we got older to try and find our own way.
I started playing golf when I was young, and what attracted me to it was that on the course I had total control over what was going on. If I lost control, it was me that lost it. That is both the most appealing aspect and by far the most difficult part of this sport. It's a love/hate thing. It's the thing that makes you totally frustrated and the thing that makes you totally elated. It's all you " how you respond to every situation, the decisions you make, the preparation that you do.
Growing up, I really tried to pattern my life after my father, I loved him dearly. Unfortunately, he had a number of physical problems and died of cancer at the age of fifty-three. I was twenty years old and in college at the time. He 'd battled for about five or six years with it. And that became my testing ground; that created the need for me to find my faith. That's what set in motion " for me to explore a little bit more of what they knew.
The other catalyst was going to college at Wake Forest. That was the first time that anybody I hung around with actually studied the Bible. That was a foreign concept to me " it was quite a new thing.
During my freshman year there was a girl on my hall who hosted a Bible study in her room, and any girls that wanted to could come. At that point I was sort of sitting on the fence. I would hang out with all of the other scholarship athletes, and a lot of them were good at playing hard and working hard. I had the playing hard part down pretty well. But then there was a part of me that was drawn to attend some of these Bible studies. For awhile I was swinging in both directions.
As things got much more difficult with my dad, and we knew he wasn't going to be able to overcome this illness, I was really challenged. He was everything to me; who I strove to be. I wanted to do all the things he used to do. If he was the captain of his high school basketball team, I wanted to be captain of my high school basketball team. It was that kind of relationship.
Then, all of a sudden, that person I'd tried to chase after wasn't going to be there anymore. It was really tough. I had to really think about who I was and what motivated me, because he meant all the world to me.
It was that point that I really became humbled. Through the Bible studies, I realized that there was such a thing as a personal relationship with Christ and that Jesus died for each of us. I had never felt that before.
There were a couple other tragic things that happened in our family within about a three-month period of my fathers death, including a very young person whose life was taken and the death of my grandfather, who took his own life.
As all of that was coming down, I was finally at a point where I no longer thought I was going to live forever. Or even be healthy forever. We really don't know how long we have. So all of that raised some real questions in my life.
Finally, I accepted the Lord as my personal Savior prior to my dad's death. As I look back on all of the difficulties from that time, I can really see the Lord's hand pulling me through when I was discouraged.
Some people say, 'All things work for the good." Well, I don't know that God necessarily creates every circumstance. But I do know that in every circumstance, He can create something that does work for the good.
Sure, I've been disappointed in some aspects of my career. A few years ago, I had some necessary surgery, and it took quite some time to come back from that. I really felt like I was back 100 percent from that, but in 1990 I got very sick. It took almost a year before we found out what it was, what was going on, and what it was causing.
Turns out I had a chemical imbalance, but even now I can't get a consensus as to what's wrong. So it took several years to rectify; it was a slow process. It really hurt me physically, mentally, and emotionally because the imbalances caused extreme fatigue. I would bend down to make a putt, and when I'd stand up, I would get so dizzy I'd almost black out. It also gave me huge emotional mood swings " which isn't my personality, and that not how I know myself. As I was going through it, I just couldn't understand it: What the heck's going on? This isn't me! I really struggled.
I stayed on the Tour anyway, which was probably a mistake. Playing through it during the most difficult times hurt my confidence. I didn't perform very well. As a result, it has been a struggle to pull it all back together since then. Sure, I have some regrets about that. I would have made a few different decisions if I could do it all over again.
The frustration is to know that you have it within you, and you feel like you haven't pulled it all out yet. That was a tough thing to get tested on.
As Christians, God calls us to be the very best we can. Being Christians, it's almost like there's a mattress underneath us. When we fall down, we're not going to break apart. We keep striving and we keep climbing, and when we fall " we're not going to break into pieces. We gather back up and go at it again.
As for the folks who don't have that faith, I'm not sure what happens to them when they fall. They don't have that cushion that says, "You're a whole person no matter what you shoot. You're a very, very special person. You're a created being with an eternal value that is much more important than whatever your soaring average is."
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