Links Daily Devotional

True Greatness, Part 9

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, ESV)

Caves Valley Country Club outside of Baltimore that July day was steaming in more ways than one. Tom Watson had birdied four out of his last five holes as he approached the 72nd green. Don Pooley, who had never won a major on either Tour, had driven in the rough at the 430-yard sixteenth, but off a tough side hill lie managed to maneuver his ball between two bunkers onto the green and get his par. Then he missed the green on the seventeenth and scrambled again for a par.

Watson, up in front, parred the last hole. Pooley could birdie the last to win but short-sided himself, dropping his iron shot into the greenside bunker. Still, he wasn’t going down. Great bunker shot, clutch putt—a tie.

An hour later the trees had begun to send bright rays of sun down the eighteenth hole. The temperature felt like it was in the mid-80’s, comfortable for that time of year. But anyone who could see the two pros’ faces knew that they were grinding.

After the three-hole playoff they were deadlocked again. Both wanted this, their 22nd hole, to be the last. Watson had outdriven Pooley, but was in the short rough.

Pooley nailed his short iron to nine feet. Watson answered. Eight feet.

Pooley holed his putt and the crowd erupted.

After they quieted down, Watson dropped his putt into the center of the hole.

I have never heard what the explosion of lava from a volcano is like, but I imagine it is similar to the wild roar of the crowd that day. We were getting a show like none ever seen.

Back to eighteen tee—for the fourth time in one day!

Pooley, 50, a rookie among the seniors, and Watson, 52, a multiple major champion and favorite to win, were still in a dead heat. But Pooley was not going down. He birdied the 455-yard last to take his first win as a senior, the US Senior Open.

When I was 20, I played in my first US Open. Like many of you, I have been a sports enthusiast, especially of golf events. I am now 76. Over the past 56 years, I would place the Pooley-Watson duel as one of my top five greatest sporting events I’ve ever either personally played in or witnessed.

I talked to Don this week. He has health issues and is sidelined for what looks like the rest of the season. We talked about that win and something that was even more important to him, a friendship.

Don and Morris Hatalsky, both PGA and Champions Tour winners, became friends early in their golf careers. Morris was reared in the Jewish tradition, Don in nominal Christianity. One day Don learned there was more to faith than Christian practice. He needed a relationship with Jesus. Meeting Jesus brought a peace into his life as never before. Don longed for Morris to know Jesus.

After college, Don won his card to the PGA Tour as did Morris. They played practice rounds, shared their ups and downs. They had many things in common, their love for golf, values in life, but not a common faith.

Years passed. Their friendship grew.

One Wednesday evening, the Tour Fellowship was having a special guest. Though Morris knew little about the guest, because of his friendship with Don, he came. Billy Graham’s message was simple. Only a relationship with Jesus can satisfy this thirst of man.

Morris began his relationship with Jesus that evening. And has never been the same since.

Don and Morris’ friendship deepened further the following years and then the past 10 years on the Champions Tour. When I think back over the past 47 years of the life of the PGA Tour Fellowship, no two men have better modeled a willingness to “lay down their lives for one another.”

I was curious about what Don felt was the most exciting experience of his life. “Was it winning the Senior Open against Watson—” I asked, “or being an instrument to help Morris meet Jesus?”

He chuckled. “One has eternal value,” he said. “The other’s already fading away.”

“And Morris has helped his children know this,” I said. “You both have helped reach the future generation.”

“There’s nothing greater,” he said. “That’s as good as it gets.”

Jim Hiskey

September 20, 2012

Copyright 2012 Links Players International

The Links Daily Devotional appears Monday-Friday at www.linksplayers.com.