Links Daily Devotional

The Winning Attitude, Part 17

In everything give thanks… (1 Thessalonians 5:18, KJV)

Larry Moody and I walked in the crowd alongside the fairway on the first hole at Hazeltine. We were pulling for Scott Simpson who was in an 18-hole playoff for his second U.S. Open title. It was Monday, June 17, 1991.

For the past decade, Larry and I had been partnering in leading the PGA Tour Fellowship. Our desire was that God be glorified that day. But secretly I think we were praying that Scott would win. I was.

It looked like he would, too, when he pulled ahead by two shots after fifteen.

But, he lost a shot at sixteen. No problem, I thought, Scott’s been here before. He knows how to win an Open.

The par-three seventeenth played 182 yards. Scott had been stellar tee-to-green all week. As he stepped up to the tee, I expected him to strike his iron center of the green. He waggled, took his club back, and swung. I closed my eyes as I saw the ball heading left, at the lake. When I opened them, I saw his ball on the bank on the left side of the lake on an almost unplayable downhill lie. He avoided the water on his pitch. But he lost his lead and his opportunity to be a two-time Open champion.

Cocky Payne Stewart had won his first U.S. Open.

Much has changed since 1991. In the late 1990s Payne’s children led him back to church, where he met Jesus. His cockiness disappeared. He was a different man when he won his second U.S. Open in 1999 at Pinehurst No. 2

My prayers were both answered and not answered at Hazeltine. Not answered because I prayed that Scott would win. But answered in that I believe God has been glorified. Not on my timetable. Not as I would have imagined.

I was at Payne’s funeral. Someone said they believed that Payne’s death would have more impact for the kingdom of God than the life had he lived.

Children have been impacted through his foundation and Kids Across America, and millions heard his story on the TV documentary Payne, which was aired last week ahead of this year’s Open. We have carried on the International Payne Stewart Cup bi-annually since his death and hear stories about Payne among golfers in Moscow, Beijing and other places in the world. Who knows what influence his life will yet have in the years ahead?

On Sunday the USGA crowned a new champion, the dominant German Martin Kaymer, who has spoken frequently of looking up to Links Player and fellow two-time major champion Bernhard Langer.

At 29 years old, Kaymer’s own contributions to the game may be far from finished. But in the same way he has been thankful for Langer’s example, we can in memory give thanks for Payne Stewart, a friend of all golfers and a man who left behind the lasting legacy of a life changed by Christ.

Jim Hiskey
June 16, 2014
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