LINKS LETTER, 2007
GAINING ON IT
From an interview with Jonathan Byrd
Jonathan Byrd enters his sixth season on the PGA Tour in 2007. He was won twice, at the 2002 Buick Challenge and the 2004 B.C. Open, but he wonders now
if maybe he is on the verge of something far better.
On the PGA Tour winning anything is probably the highest achievement. Obviously, winning a major championship is
one of the highest, that next to winning a Ryder Cup.
I think it’s an awesome feeling, but it’s just like everything else, it’s fleeting. Somebody else is going to win the next tournament. And in
a few weeks, it just goes by so fast. There are more tournaments coming up, there’s a new year the next year. It just seems to go so quickly.
There are a lot of other highs out there. Just when you feel like you’re getting your game together, you shoot your low round of the year, you’re
getting into contention week-to-week. It’s pretty fun if you’re putting some weeks together, trying to make a Ryder Cup team.
The lowest low out there is feeling like you can’t compete, like you’re never in contention. I had a year in 2005 where I made a lot of
cuts, but I was never in contention. I walked away from it trying to be positive, saying, “OK, that was a good year, I did a lot of solid things.” But it was boring. It was mundane. The job gets mundane
and it’s a low. Then in 2006 I missed a fair amount of cuts, but I was in contention a lot more, and it was a huge difference. You’re playing to win tournaments. You’re not playing just to get by
and to make a check.
I’ve won two tournaments in five years on Tour. I’m getting beat a lot more than I’m winning. I
face that challenge. I set goals every off-season, I set goals every year. You have result goals, which are making the team, or stat goals, which are result goals, or how you finish on the money list. Those are
things you just can’t control because they’re result goals. But if I set goals based on what I want to improve in my demeanor on the golf course, what I want to improve in my attitude, what I want to
improve in my practice time, what I want to do with my fitness. There are so many other goals you can set so you’re not losing all the time. If I go out and achieve this, this and this, then I’m going to
play well. And then I’m going to achieve the result goals of finishing in the top 30 on the money list or winning the Masters or making the Ryder Cup team.
You measure success by how you rate yourself more than how the media does. If you rate your success or your accomplishment based on what the media says,
man, you’re always losing. They’re going to compare you to Tiger Woods. I’m 28 years old, he’s 31. You know, I’m a junior league golfer compared to him. But I can’t compare myself
to anybody else other than what I feel like I can accomplish, what I can do. I’m not saying I don’t fall way short of my expectations most of the time, but I have other things that I work on that I can
accomplish and keep improving on.
I think you measure success, a lot of it, based on your stewardship. What has God given you? In the area of stewardship, there are a lot more aspects than just
money. We’re given talents, we’re given time, we’re given relationships, and we’re given money—I’m probably leaving some things out—but you’ve got to a good steward of
all those things. I think that’s a good place to start.
I’m close right now. I’m closer right now than I probably ever have been on Tour. I won the Buick Challenge my first year on Tour, and my game was pretty good, but it was nowhere near what it is right now. It wasn’t as sharp then. I wasn’t able to hit as many shots. There are things that I’m doing right now that will help me think better and better as the years come on.
I don’t think firing on all cylinders just means you’re winning. I’ve played really well in tournaments and my game hasn’t been really
good before. I haven’t been good at the time. I don’t think that’s the gauge. I’ve been able to see really nice improvements in my game and I’ve gotten in contention. But I
haven’t hit that mark yet where I’ve put it all together. When I put it all together, I’m going to win, or I’m going to be close every week.
My mental coach is Morris Pickens. He’s helped me so much in the past year in turning one thing around, which is that I’ve always kind of
approached golf so that on a tournament week, Monday to Wednesday, was my work time. It has always been fun. I would go out and do my work and be pretty serious, but I was actually more relaxed during that period.
But when the tournaments started, I would get locked up and try really hard. I had a hard time relaxing Thursday through Sunday.
I’ve learned to switch gears. Monday through Wednesday is my preparation-work time and I’m more serious during that time because I’m trying
to get prepared for the tournament and then once Thursday starts it’s more of a relaxed time because I’ve done all my work. So that’s my time to have fun and go show off. That key
idea—“show off”—is to just go out and enjoy competition.
I think God has given me a great desire to compete. He’s given me a great desire to pursue excellence in golf. I spend a lot of time doing that. That is a worthy use of my time, because I am glorifying God in my pursuit of excellence and trying to win golf tournaments. It gives my life great purpose and significance, because I’m ultimately doing that for God’s glory.
He’s also given me kind of a one-track mind. Like in relationships—hanging out with guys on Tour or from different ministries I’m involved
with—some guys can handle a lot of different things, a lot more things on their plate. I’m not built that way. I’m better if I can pour my energy and my time into a few things, or just a few
people, so I don’t get spread too thin. When I get spread too thin, I’m useless and I get frazzled.
For me, it’s to continue to improve my game in more stressful situations. I still fight that urge when I get in situations to try too hard. I want things so bad that I kind of get in my own way, and I don’t let my talent come out. I want to be more relaxed in the environment of playing in the last group on Sunday—just going out and approaching each shot for what it is, and trying to show off on each shot and to engage on each shot, not for the result but to hit a great shot. The more I do that, the more relaxed I’ll become and the less I’ll worry about the result and how I’m going to finish.
I’m really good friends with Ben Crane and Zach Johnson. I’m really good friends with my pastor at home, David Yarborough. I’m good friends with the guys at College Golf Fellowship, Brad Payne and Stephen Bunn. And I’m good friends with my brother, Jordan. And Dave Kreuger with Search Ministries. And obviously, my dad. If I need counsel or I need somebody to filter and idea through or just encouragement, those are the guys God has placed in my life.
There’s no outline. It’s different every year, it’s different every day. I’m in the Word,
my prayer life’s good. It turns out it’s not so much the things I do—like I’m doing this, I’m doing this, I’m doing this—but I want to be in God’s
presence and I’m hungry.
I’m definitely an early riser now because we just had our first baby late last summer, so that’s been awesome to be up early a lot. It’s a
lot easier to worship and have a quiet time early in the morning before the day starts. That’s been a blessing.
I met Amanda in college at Clemson. We were both just about to start our junior year. We had a class together the semester before. I never really had enough nerve to talk to her, but I knew who she was. Right before that next year started, somebody introduced us, actually in a bar. We ended up getting together with a group of people the next day at the pool. We hung out some more and I took her on a date two nights later, and we’ve been together ever since.
We dated two years in college and about six months after we started dating we went to an FCA retreat through Clemson, and we heard Tommy Nelson go through the
Song of Solomon series and that changed our relationship big time. We came back from that conference with a different perspective on pursuing holiness in a relationship and how we can glorify God just by dating and
courting each other. We were dating at that point and I know we didn’t do it the right way the whole time, and we had our challenges going forward, but I really didn’t start courting her for marriage
until we got out of college.
I knew she was the one probably about a year after we got out of college. It took a while for me. She would probably say different. She probably knew I was the
one when we were in class together, before we even met.
His name is Jackson Byrd. It’s going awesome. Just watching my wife’s body change and watching her go through pregnancy was scary. She ended up having a C-section, but watching the birth process and then God blessing us with a healthy beautiful son—that was an obvious miracle.
There are obviously a lot of challenges, like getting used to your world being flipped upside-down. You realize how selfish you are after you have that first
child, because your life changes so much. He’s just awesome.
When we got pregnant, I think the biggest fear—to be vulnerable—for my wife and me, was that it was
going to make things a lot more difficult on us. Maybe we weren’t ready or it was going to be more difficult for me to focus on my job and put the effort I needed to put into it to be successful. And then was
it going to take the focus off of our marriage, our time just with each other? So those were two challenges we knew going into it.
But it’s been really strange. I thought I would have less time to practice and to work on my game and to pursue excellence in my game, but I
haven’t lost any of that. My desire to do that has almost been enhanced. I’ve cut out a lot of things, like the time I wasted when I just watched TV and other things that weren’t productive.
I’ve replaced that spending time with family, and I still get plenty of time to do my work and to practice and do everything I need to do to keep getting better.
I don’t see any difference in those amateurs we play with and the group of guys that are on the PGA Tour. People in the business world are seeking
financial gain and success in the business world; it’s the same personality as you see on the PGA Tour. They may have the wrong perspective, but they don’t recognize it because they don’t know any
different. They feel like if they get one more notch in their belt or they get a new job position or they have that new car or they become a member at Augusta or whatever, it will completely satisfy them. You see
the same pattern in every occupation. You see the same pattern in your hometown or on the PGA Tour, or with CEOs, or whoever you play with. I am so glad for the perspective of knowing there’s nothing in this
world that can fill that void in our hearts but Jesus Christ and having a relationship with Him. I don’t see the need for Him just out there, I see it all over the place.
College Golf Fellowship is probably the number one ministry I’m involved with. I just have such a heart for college students because I was in college and I was an idiot that first year and a half in college, just kind of living foolishly, pretty much running from God. I know what the environment’s like. You’ve got so many professors and so many different people who can influence your thinking in the direction you go in life.
The best thing I can pass on to younger players is my story. I can give them golf tips and I can tell them golf stories, and they love to hear that kind of
stuff because I’m where they want to be someday, playing on the PGA Tour and I’ve won two PGA Tour events, so I kind of have some credibility going into it. A lot of kids just want to know golf tips, how
they can get better, but the best thing I can give those kids is my story, my testimony, how I came to realize that I needed a Savior.
I think God has been tugging on my heart this year about how important relational ministry is. The guys on Tour, we go through times where we’re really fired up about our Bible study or fired up about trying to tell more people about Christ. But we just kind of keep coming back to how important relational ministry is. There’s a time and a place to talk to guys. You have to wait for the opportunity where there is spiritual openness with guys.
It’s just been on my heart to hang out with guys and spend time with guys and just to meet guys right where they are, and to
do things they like to do, not just on the PGA Tour, but guys at home. My wife and I and other couples do ministry right where we are—just doing the most mundane things, going to a baseball game, going out to
dinner, whatever people like, going hunting in the woods. That’s ministry right there, spending time with people. Once they realize that you listen to them and they know you care about them, then there’s
spiritual openness and they want to know what’s different about your life and why you have that peace or contentment in your life. Then God gives you an open door to tell them about Jesus.
You feel guilty that you should be doing more or saying more, and most of the time you need to be loving people more and spending time with other people
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