Inspiring Athletes

Inspiring Athletes

PGA young gun Rickie Fowler on being a role model and the pressure of high expectations

posted by Chad Bonham

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Back home from Fort Worth, Texas, but not before getting interview time with some of the PGA’s finest during the practice rounds and Pro-Am at the Crowne Plaza Invitational.

Today, it’s a short Q&A with 22-year old PGA star Rickie Fowler who has yet to win a tour title, but has already made a big splash as a second-year full-time pro. The 2010 PGA Rookie of the Year is doing his best to live up to some high expectations that follow an impressive amateur career and an appearance on the 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Just look around at any given golf tournament and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Young golf fans follow him around the course, many of which sport his signature Puma brand flat-billed hat. Fowler is aware of it too. Here’s what he had to say about being a role model and dealing with the heavy weight of high expectations:

Rickie Fowler on the practice green at the Crowne Plaza Invitational. (Photo by Chad Bonham)

Bonham: How does it feel to be an inspiration to the next generation of young golfers?

Fowler: It’s great to be somewhat of a role model. I want to be a positive and good role model and lead by example and try to do the best I can. Playing good golf definitely draws attention but I want to have a good attitude on the course and do the right things.

Bonham: Does that attention challenge you to play the game with integrity and live your life away from the course the same way?

Fowler: Yeah, I’m definitely conscious that I’m being watched at all times. I want to be a good role model. I don’t want to be a screw-up or anything like that. I want to do the right things and set the right example.

Bonham: How much encouragement and strength do you get from the weekly Bible studies you attend while out on the tour?

Fowler: (It helps) to be around good guys. I just bumped into Ben Crane over here, one of my good buddies out on tour. (It helps) to have guys like that to hang around and guys like Bubba Watson. We recently spent a little time with Tobymac (at The PLAYERS Championship Bible study). It definitely helps to be around positive guys and guys that are out trying to do the right thing and it encourages me to do my thing.

Bonham: Do you feel any pressure knowing that you’re a younger player to whom the veterans are trying to pass the torch?

Fowler: Yes and no. There are a lot of good young players right now. Obviously I’d like to step up and be that guy. I need to play a little bit better. I definitely would like to be that guy they pass the torch down to, but I have to keep playing well, step up my game a bit and ultimately get my first win out of the way.

To learn more about Rickie Fowler, check out his official website by clicking here.

Next Monday, we’ll have a weekend sports wrap-up, plus later in the week be looking for interviews with PGA golfer Kevin Streelman and actor Ryan Merriman, star of the inspirational sports film The Fifth Quarter.

PGA FedEx Cup contender Mark Wilson on his responsibility as a Christian athlete

posted by Chad Bonham

Fort Worth, TX — Yesterday’s hot and windy outing at the Colonial Country Club yielded some short, but substantial encounters with the PGA’s finest including interviews with Mark Wilson, Kevin Streelman and Rickie Fowler as the players rubbed shoulders with amateur golfers during the Crowne Plaza Pro-Am.

For today’s Inspiring Athletes, I’ll share what Mark Wilson had to say. Wilson is having a huge season. Before 2011, he had two PGA Tour victories–a number he’s doubled less than halfway through this season. His big numbers have landed him at #3 on the FedEx Cup standings (heading into the Crowne Plaza Invitational), but his big heart and even bigger desire to live for God is what really makes this 36-year old golfer stand out.

Bonham: How important is it for the golfers to have this chance (during a Pro-Am tournament) to interact with the fans throughout the day?

Wilson: It’s unique to professional sports. In professional golf on the day before the tournament starts, amateurs get to come along and see how the course plays and play with us. You can’t do that in football or basketball. A lot of people would get hurt. So we take advantage of it and I think the amateurs see a lot of value in it.

Bonham: Talk about FCA Gameday and why it’s something that you participant in at various tournaments.

Wilson: Kevin Streelman came up with that idea a couple years ago. We usually play a practice round anyway and there are a lot of demands on our time.  So he came up with the idea where kids could walk with us during the practice round for nine holes. We’ve had as many as 60 kids at one time. I did it in L.A., this year and there was 30 kids. I think they really enjoy that. We try to interact with them as much as we can and that way we can witness to them.

Bonham: How important is it for you to use your platform to share who you are and what you believe?

Wilson: It’s what I try to remind myself of every day. I’m always trying to keep God’s agenda in mind. Some days it’s easier to do that than others, but even when we fall and fail in this game, we have to remember that people are watching. How we carry ourselves in the tough times might be the reason why someone wonders what’s going on in our lives. It might make them want to investigate it. Hopefully they’ll see that the peace comes from Jesus. That’s why I’m playing golf. That’s why God gave me the talent. That’s why I’m out here.

To learn more about Mark Wilson, check out his website here.

Tomorrow I’ll post a Q&A with PGA young gun Rickie Fowler who talked to me about being a role model and the importance of having accountability with fellow Christians on tour.

K.J. Choi donates portion of latest PGA winnings to tornado relief

posted by Chad Bonham

On the heels of his sensational playoff victory at the PLAYERS Championship, K.J. Choi is donating $200,000 of his winnings to support victims of the tornadoes that ravaged the Southeast this spring. Read more here.

PGA legend Tom Lehman on integrity

posted by Chad Bonham

Fort Worth, TX — It was a hot, sunny day at the Crowne Plaza Invitational. One of the highlights was sitting in on a press conference with PGA legend Tom Lehman. Although Lehman, 52, spends more time on the Champions Tour these days, he chose to play in this PGA event mostly because two of his daughters are taking summer classes at TCU (just a stone’s throw from Colonial Country Club).

It was a perfect opportunity to get in some research for a forthcoming book about the lessons we can learn about integrity from the game of golf. Here’s what Lehman had to share on the topic:

Bonham: Tom, a few weeks ago Webb Simpson showed a lot of class when he lost a stroke in the New Orleans Classic after self-reporting that his ball had moved (Read that story here). Integrity is a big part of the game. From your perspective as a guy who’s been through it and tried to live with integrity, why is it important for young guys like him to display that kind of respect for the game?

Lehman: Two comments. First of all, the integrity, to me, that’s what separates golf from other sports. Other sports they’re not required to call penalties on themselves. In golf, you aren’t either. But it’s been part of the tradition of the game to, when you break a rule, and nobody has seen it, that you need to be man enough to do that. When you see Webb do that, and I think it was Brian Davis, a couple of years ago at Hilton Head when his club touched the grass, calling penalties on yourself, when you’re in such a position where it could cost him a tournament just shows the class of the individual, the integrity, the character. And also the beauty of golf.

Tom Lehman speaks at Crowne Plaza Invitational Press Conference (Photo by Chad Bonham)

Now with that said, that rule, where the wind blows your ball, is a terrible rule. I felt like watching Padraig Harringtonget penalized at Augusta a few years ago when the wind gusted and blew his ball after he already backed away. It’s time to change that rule, when it’s obvious to everyone that the wind is the cause of the ball moving. You shouldn’t penalize the player.

So I just feel like that rule needs to go. It needs to be amended. When it can be proven obviously by video replay, or whatever, that the wind has caused the ball to move, the player is not penalized. Webb paid the penalty. But you know what, I think in the end, when you do that, what goes around, comes around. He will be rewarded in some way. Something is going to happen throughout the course of his career, where you’re going to say that was a turning point, playing by the rules and making the right decision and it’s benefited me for the rest of my life.

Tomorrow we’ll have more comments from various participants at the Crowne Plaza Invitational.

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