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Later this year, New Leaf Publishing will be releasing a book that I’m currently working on called Life in the Fairway. This book will take a look at the game of golf and what it teaches us about biblical integrity. I’ve been blessed to have the participation of several PGA golfers including Stewart Cink, Webb Simpson, Ben Crane, Aaron Baddeley, Bernard Langer, Kevin Streelman and D.J. Brigman, plus St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright.
As a sneak preview for this book, I’ll be releasing selected portions of the interviews that I conducted. This first one gives you a little insight into Jonathan Byrd who opened up last season with a Tour victory at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and will be looking to defend his title this weekend (January 6-9).
In this conversation, Byrd talks about his love of the game, the importance of integrity and a few thoughts on some of the other Christian golfers on the PGA Tour:
Chad Bonham: What do you love about golf?
Jonathan Byrd: We fail at this game a lot more than we succeed. From the world’s eyes, I’ve won a good bit on Tour—more than most. I’ve won five times in 10 years on Tour. That’s once every two years. That’s not winning a whole lot. So compared to some other sports, you’re not winning as much, but the standard for winning or improvement and things like that is very important to help you deal with defeat. We obviously play to win tournaments. We practice a lot. But when we’re struggling and we’re not playing well, the thing that keeps bringing me back is the fact that I can always improve on something. There’s always an area of improvement. It’s a game you can’t perfect. But the pursuit of perfection is very fun. I love working with my instructor and figuring things out that might make me better and then trying to ingrain that through the drills and putting the time and seeing the fruit of that. It’s just a real enjoyable process from. Obviously bearing fruit is a biblical thing. You plant the seed and put the time in with God by serving and reading your Bible. You plant seeds in your life and it bears fruit in your life. The same is true in the game of golf. If you put the time in and you practice the right things, you can always improve. That whole process is something that I, and a lot of other guys, enjoy the most about the game.
Bonham: What are some things that golf inherently teaches us about integrity?
Byrd: Honesty is one thing that you learn. I remember as a young guy, sometimes I would keep my score and the other guy’s score. I must confess, I wasn’t always the most honest guy. That was a lesson I learned growing up playing golf. If I made a five, I had to write down a five. If I made a six, I had to write down a six. No matter how painful it might be to have a bad hole, you have to be honest—even if you’re just playing by yourself.
Humility is another great quality. There’s nothing that humbles you more than the game of golf. It can really humble you sometimes and having a bad golf score can teach you a lot about humility. The minute you think you have the game figured out and you become boastful about it, the game will humble you right around the corner and you’ll struggle.
Bonham: What about the Bible inspires you in your quest to live with integrity?
Byrd: Proverbs 3:5-6 is grossly overused in sports. But I think people use it in sports a lot to say, “Trust the Lord and He’ll make things right for me. He’ll help me win.” But I think it means we’re supposed to trust the Lord with everything. I’m bombarded every day with situations where God asks me, “Are you going to trust Me?” And He’s saying, “Trust me with this difficult relationship” and “Trust me with this financial decision.” The part about not leaning on my own understanding really grips me. In my mind, it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense when my dad passed away two years ago of a brain tumor. Why did that happen? My dad didn’t do anything to deserve that. It doesn’t make sense. It won’t make sense on this side of Heaven. So I have to continually and daily, with little things that dig at me, trust God. That is the only way to live. Any other way is futile.
Bonham: Tell me your thoughts on some of your fellow Christian peers on the PGA Tour starting with Webb Simpson.
Byrd: When he first came out with just sponsor exemptions, Webb had great enthusiasm. He loves to play. But he has a great desire to grow in his faith and to grow in the Word. He and his wife want to be a part of whatever God is doing. He’s plugged in to the Tour Fellowship. He’s plugged in to his church back home. They just want to grow and they love the Lord. I’ve seen him give God glory when he wasn’t playing great and he had contentment and peace and joy through that. I saw the same Webb Simpson last year when he barely kept his card as I did this year when he made almost seven million dollars on the golf course. I love to see that. He’s the same guy.
Bonham: Tell me a little bit about Stewart Cink.
Byrd: The think I love about Stewart the most is that he has a great walk. People like being around him. He has great enthusiasm. He has a very light, great spirit about him. He’s easy to be around. It just seems like the good and the bad just roll off his back easily. He doesn’t seem to wear his emotions on his sleeve. He has this great joy about him. That’s why he has so many good friends on Tour. He’s very likeable and he’s very fun to play with. That’s just a tribute to his personality. He’s very outgoing.
Bonham: What about Ben Crane?
Byrd: Ben is a rare bird. He’s very unique. It’s been fun the last couple of years to see his personality come out for everybody to see. He’s always been very serious on the golf course. He’s got his process and he’s been labeled as a slow player. But off the golf course, Ben is full of life. He’s funny. He just loves people. He’s so relational and he loves serving people. He’s just fun to be around. He might play a joke on you or surprise you and break out in dance in the middle of a restaurant.
Bonham: And finally, what are your thoughts on Aaron Baddeley?
Byrd: Aaron Baddeley is a family guy. He approaches the game with a great work ethic. He loves studying his Bible. He’s got a really good reputation on Tour with a lot of people. He’s kind of one of those quiet guys who goes about his work and does his thing and has a lot of success. I wouldn’t say that guy has anybody against him for any reason. He and his wife are just a very likeable couple.
Here’s a video that features Byrd talking about College Golf Fellowship, an organization for which Byrd is a founding board member:
If you’d like to learn more about College Golf Fellowship, visit the official website by clicking HERE.