Inspiring Athletes

Inspiring Athletes

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.

Hot Topic Tuesday: Does character matter?

posted by Chad Bonham

Fort Worth, TX — For the next three days, I’ll be at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial here in Fort Worth right next to TCU campus. But before I get those reports in, it’s time to introduce a feature called “Hot Topic Tuesday.” Each week, I’ll ask a question and prompt you the readers to respond. I’ll chime with my opinion the following week. The week after that we’ll introduce a new topic and, again, I’ll give my take. Make sense?

So let’s start here: Does character matter?

Here’s the premise: When you root for a sports team or an individual athlete (say in golf or tennis), does it matter to you what kind of person they are off the playing field? Do you care how they treat their opponents? Does their attitude–win or lose–make a difference in your level of support?

I’m convinced that many people of faith (especially the hardcore sports fans among us) don’t care. Why? Let me give you an example. I play on my church softball team and often the conversation in the dugout will turn to whatever major sport is going on at the time. Usually its baseball. Our team sports Phillies fans, Yankees fans, Red Sox fans, Rangers fans and even a lone Astros fan (that would be me).

Because of my work with Christian athletes, I sometimes interject commentary about players from the teams in mention. And you know what? It doesn’t usually matter one bit to the guys if the hated rivalry has some amazing athletes of great character. They either write that off or try to discredit my point altogether.

Just to clarify, in bringing up good character guys from various teams, I’m not trying to get them to change their allegiance from one team to another. It’s more about helping them see things from a different perspective.

I also don’t mean to unfairly point out my teammates because, quite frankly, most of us are like this. For the sake of full disclosure, I’m a lifelong Lakers fan and I’ve recently dealt with a wide array of poor behavior from various members of that team (most recently the ejections of Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum). Kind of hard to defend moving picks with a side of forearm (see the final minutes of the 2011 NBA Playoff Series between LA and Dallas if you haven’t already).

I’ll share more of my thoughts next week, but for now, I want to hear from you. Please share your comments. Does character (as it pertains to athletes and sports) matter? Do you root mostly for athletes of character? Does it make a difference to you if you know an athlete has a strong sense of faith and belief in God?

Discuss. — cb

Tomorrow we’ll hear PGA legend Tom Lehman chime in on the topic of integrity as it pertains to the game of golf and life.

A slightly belated NBA Conference Finals preview

posted by Chad Bonham

Chicago and Miami kicked things off last night in Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals with the Bulls’ surprisingly lopsided 103-82 victory over LeBron and company. Here’s a look at some story lines that will take you a little deeper than what happens on the court:

I-35 NBA playoff series an NBA first

Okay, so Oklahoma City has only had its own NBA team for three seasons, so the historic nature of the first-ever “I-35 Series” between the Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks may not be a huge deal. But take it from this Tulsa native who’s traveled to OKC and Dallas more than any other cities. It’s a huge deal.

For most fans on either side of the equation, the drive is roughly three hours, and just like another great regional rivalry, college football’s OU-Texas game, this series has the makings of a good old fashioned barn burner. Dallas shocked the world with a four-game sweep of two-time defending champions Los Angeles while Oklahoma City took out the scrappy Memphis Grizzlies in seven. Look for this one to go the distance with a slight advantage to the higher seeded Mavs.

But it’s really hard not to root for a young, exciting team like the Thunder who are led by one of the most likeable (and most genuinely nice) players in the league. Kevin Durant is a legit superstar and at the age of 22 has put himself in the conversation with NBA greats like Kobe Bryant, LeBron, D-Wade and Dwight Howard. In an interview earlier this year, he said to me, “My gift back to (God) is to always be humble and to always try to work as hard as I can.”

I believe the kid.

Plus most of his teammates are just as down-to-earth as he is. That’s a true rarity in today’s over-hyped environment where arrogance is often rewarded and selfish play and showboating is (to a certain extent) encouraged. It will be interesting to watch Durant in his attempt to remain humble as the spotlight surrounding him gets astronomically bigger every day.

Korver and Wade on different (but similar) missions

Even though the Bulls won the top spot in the Eastern Conference, most pundits assumed Boston or Miami would emerge as the Finals representative. But after the Game 1 drubbing of the star-studded Miami Heat, Chicago, led by MVP Derrick Rose, proved they’re for real. Keep an eye on sixth man Kyle Korver who comes off the bench and adds a serious deep threat to the Bulls’ arsenal. We’ll have more on Korver in the coming weeks including a story about his charitable clothing company called Seer Outfitters, which benefits his African missions initiative.

Kyle Korver, Chicago Bulls (Courtesy of the NBA)


For the Heat, the most inspiring storyline is the return of Dwyane Wade to his hometown of Chicago, where his mother Jolinda Wade pastors Temple of Praise. Wade, who donated nearly $2 million to help his mother purchase property for the church, revealed last week that last summer he came very close to signing with the Bulls instead of the Heat. It’s safe to say that his hometown ties made the decision to stay in Miami that much harder.

Here’s a great feature that tells the Wade family’s incredible story:

YouTube Preview Image

And in case anyone cares about my predictions: Chicago in six and (please forgive me fellow Okies) Dallas in seven.

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