So, my problems were solved, right?
Sure, I still had my Army service to get through (I was in ROTC at Florida), but God handled that pretty neatly too. Get this: on my very first day at Fort Bliss in El Paso, I went out to the golf course to play some golf, and a gentleman who just happened to be on the board of governors for the Fort Bliss golf course was on the first tee and asked me to join him. His name was Colonel Floyd.
After a couple holes I mentioned to Colonel Floyd that I had been an assistant pro at the University of Florida golf course during my master’s degree, and he informed me that the Fort Bliss military base was one of just a handful of nonappropriated golf facilities managed by an officer. This course, in other words, was run like a country club. He further informed me that the lieutenant in charge of the golf facility just received orders for Vietnam. Colonel Floyd asked if I would work as that man’s assistant for a few weeks and then take over for him after he was shipped out.
So, for my next eighteen months in the Army, instead of wearing a uniform, I wore slacks and a golf shirt and reported for duty every day at the golf course! On top of that, I met my wife, Debbie, while I was stationed in El Paso. And as if all that weren’t enough, before the end of my stint, I’d met a retired colonel who wanted to sponsor me on the PGA Tour.
I was beginning to see how Dave Regan’s foresight was playing out. I could really see God’s hand orchestrating things that were beyond all odds.
That fall, I went to the PGA Tour regional qualifying school in Quincy, Illinois, and then to the national qualifying tournament in North Palm Beach, but I missed the cut by about seven spots. The next year, in Napa, California, I missed by three.
But I decided to try one more time.
After a year of playing mini-tours in Florida with guys like Mark Hayes, Joe Inman, and Gil Morgan—sometimes three 36-hole tournaments in a week!—I finished fifth at the national qualifying tournament. I was a card-carrying PGA Tour professional!
Debbie and I had, in the meantime, been through staff training with Campus Crusade. I was all set to pursue my destiny: I would be playing the PGA Tour, and I was mentally equipped and eager to be an ambassador for Jesus Christ.
What else could I possibly want?
Well, while God certainly did open up a lot of doors for me on the Tour, looking back, I now realize that I had, in many ways, only exchanged one set of personal strivings for another. Reaching people for Jesus is a wonderful goal, certainly, but inside me, not that much had changed in any fundamental way: I was still grimly determined to try harder, go longer, and overcome all obstacles in my path. In other words, my life was all about what I needed to do, instead of what Christ had already done.
Now, don’t mistake me. God can use even a type-A overachiever like me to accomplish his will. Nor is there any question in my mind that I was saved. If receiving God’s gift of grace is dependent upon our perfectly understanding and living out its implications, none of us has any hope whatsoever. But remember what Jesus said? “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest … My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). He also said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV). I hadn’t found that rest or light burden or full life Jesus talked about yet.
In fact, I was so busy doing things for Jesus that I hardly had any time left over to just be with Him. And for a long time, I didn’t know any better. I thought that was the way it was supposed to be. The truly good news indeed is, “Jesus paid it all,” but the way I was living, my version would have run something like, “and now you get to pay Him back.”
The worst part of all this, as I now realize, is that I had taken the image of my father—impossible to please, always seeing the wrong in me, no way I could measure up—and had somehow hung a “God” sign on him. I was getting my significance from all the things I was doing for Christ—proving my worth—instead of getting my significance from His relationship with me.
In golf, one of the greatest killers I see is when people try to play the golf swing rather than play golf. They’re so wrapped up in doing their golf swing and trying to put all the pieces together that they forget about trusting their swing and enjoying the round. It’s the same basic trap as “doing” religion: people striving so hard to be Christians that they forget that it’s not about what we do for God but about his desire for us to simply walk with him and play the game of life with freedom.
The fact is, placing anything at the center of your life other than your relationship with Christ is the same thing as serving a false god. And that’s exactly what I was doing.