When PGA Tour golfer Wesley Bryan was growing up, he said his father used to have to drag him to church.
“I thought I knew a lot about Jesus,” Bryan told local youth golfers last week at the annual FCA Golf Jax “THE PLAYERS Breakfast with the Pros.” “I thought he was like this ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card. But I didn’t have a relationship with him.”
Bryan credited the Christian fellowship and camaraderie he experienced as a teen and through playing golf with helping him develop and deepen that relationship. So much so, in fact, that when he achieved his first PGA Tour victory last month at the RBC Heritage in his native South Carolina, Bryan said he was less focused on his victory than on the greater victory celebrated on that day – Easter Sunday.
“I want this day to be as little about me as possible and more about our savior who came out of the tomb,” Bryan told sportscasters Nick Faldo and Jim Nantz that day. “It was so special to get it done on such a special day.”
Bryan was one of several professional golfers to share his faith with several hundred young golfers at the breakfast, held May 10 at the Sawgrass Marriott in conjunction with THE PLAYERS Championship. Tournament Chairman Kevin English welcomed students and shared a passage of scripture, stressing the important role faith plays in THE PLAYERS Championship and its 2,000 volunteers.
“We couldn’t do what we do without the Lord shining down on the volunteers,” English said. “He enables us to not just put on a golf tournament. He enables us to change people’s lives. And we do that every year by giving back millions of dollars to local charities.”
As Audio Adrenaline vocalist Adam Agee provided entertainment, students ate breakfast with numerous pro golfers, including KJ Choi, Kevin Streelman, Blayne Barber and Ben Martin.
Building a foundation
Several of the pros present credited FCA golf programs with helping them keep the sport in proper perspective.
“Golf is so often inner focused,” said Blayne Barber, who noted that he first got involved with FCA at a youth golf camp in St. Augustine’s World Golf Village. “It’s an individual sport, and it’s often easy to be so self-centered that you kind of lose sight of what’s going on around you.”
Connecting with other Christian golfers while on the road, Barber said, has both helped him personally and inspired him to remain involved with FCA Golf.
“It’s a great way to introduce (kids) to the most important thing they’ll ever know in their life," he said, "and that’s Jesus.”
Pro Aaron Baddeley agreed. “FCA’s such a great program,” he said. “It gives you that platform, a foundation you can build your life upon. It teaches you that Christianity isn’t this weird thing. The gospel really, truly changes your life.”
Golfer Kevin Streelman, meanwhile, said the positive impact of FCA Golf inspired him to help create the GAMEDAY program, which enables kids to walk the golf course with pros, who share their faith.
“We all have a platform, and one day God is going to ask us what we did with the platform He gave us,” Streelman said. “I want to use my platform for more than making money and taking home trophies.”
Streelman said his faith keeps him from losing sight of what’s truly important in life.
“I always thought once I got on the PGA Tour, that would be it,” Streelman said. “Then it was, ‘Oh, I want to keep my card the next year.’ Then it was, ‘I want a win.’ Then another win.
“There’s always going to be something else if you don’t have a foundation of something eternal,” he told the young golfers. “God’s love and eternal grace – that’s a foundation you can build your life on.”