LINKS LETTER, JANUARY 1992

GIVE YOUR BEST

By Betsy King

Sometimes you never think ahead about how you will react in a certain situation.

That was me, the final hole of the LPGA Championship at Bethesda Country Club.

As I was walking up to hit my second shot, it occurred to me that both the 18th at the Dinah Shore and the LPGA have become “traditional walks.”

After I hit my shot onto the green, I said to myself: “Betsy, you ought to do something!”

The next thing I knew I was galloping down the gallery-lined rough slapping hands. People think I’m pretty quiet and reserved. Probably, they are right. But I just felt it was time to break the mold. As I was running along like a wild kid, it occurred to me—”it sure would’ve looked silly if no one had responded” Fortunately they did. Everyone was so encouraging!

It was fun!

I was asked later if it was hard to settle down on the 12-footer I made to break the LPGA record.

“I didn’t know the record was at stake,” I said. “Running up 18 had no bearing on the putt. Obviously, I wanted to make a birdie. But I wanted to get back to what I’d been doing all week—giving my best effort.”

Fortunately, I made the putt and it was exciting to become the first woman to shoot four rounds in the 60’s in a major championship.

I’ve had lots of questions about how I did it and if there was any single factor that brought everything together. It’s hard to point to one thing. But let me go back a few months to September of ’91. I started working on a swing change, and as they often do, things got worse before they got better. I consulted a couple of new teachers and got a couple of new angles on things. After several months, my game started to improve.

Then, before I flew to Washington for the LPGA, I went to Chicago to see my close friend and longtime teacher, Ed Oldfield.

Golf can be hard at times. It had been for me all that winter and this past spring. Ed didn’t say much as we worked together on the practice tee—just a little thing here and there. Mainly, he reassured me that what I was working on was sound.

I wasn’t sure how I would play when I arrived in Washington for the LPGA at Bethesda. My desire was to do what I’d been doing for years. That’s just to play up to my potential for the week.

To digress for a moment—one thing that upsets me is the way some parents push their children to play golf. There is such an emphasis on winning at an early age for kids. It’s as if a child is encouraged to start a pro career at age 10. Kids ought to have fun playing golf at that age. It’s not that shouldn’t be encouraged to get better, but winning shouldn’t get blown out of proportion.

I’ve been taught to give my best with the talent God has given me. To be obedient to Him day-by-day. I think that’s what we should be teaching our young people.

Kids are taught that if they want anything bad enough they can have it. I don’t believe that. Other factors are involved. You have to have some measure of talent. I don’t think God wants us to think that way either. He wants us to give 100 percent, but that’s it! We don’t have to get all caught up in being “number one.” If we’re highly talented and become number one, fine. But if we give our best and we’re number 100, that’s fine, too.

Golf is a job to me. It is my occupation. Going to the golf course is like going to the office. Obviously, I am very fortunate to have a job I enjoy and when I play well, I do well financialy.

I think people overdramatize things. I guess that’s why people were surprised by my running down the 18th at Bethesda. I do seem pretty reserved to many—without a flare for the dramatic. But I think of myself as a highly motivated person. That motivation comes from my faith in Christ and a desire to give my best for His glory.

Let me take a moment to explain what I mean. Sometimes you hear of a person who suddenly finds some portion of Scripture, and it leads them to win a tournament. I don’t think faith in God and Jesus Christ is like that. Please don’t take me wrong. I pray for peace a lot, both before and during each round. I did that at the LPGA. But what I think is important is being a good example of Jesus Christ, whether you’re playing well or not. Being faithful to Him is what is important. Trying to keep consistently in tune with Him.

Getting back to the LPGA Championship: When I teed off the first hole of the first round, I never dreamed what would happen the next four days. Like any tournament, I tried not to get too goal-oriented—just play shot-by-shot and see what would happen.

Many times over the previous year, I’d begun tournaments with these same things in mind. In most of these tournaments I was closer to 100th than first. But this was my week. I played the best golf I’ve ever played. To break the records I did and win by 11 strokes was beyond my wildest expectation.

Going back to the question as to what was the key to my play that week. Just reflecting, I’d say I got off to a good start. I wasn’t making and bogeys and I said to myself, “Well, it would be nice to keep doing that.”

Golf can be kind of up and down. The fact that I didn’t make any bogeys made it a lot easier not to let anything upset me. There wasn’t nay reason to start questioning myself as it’s so easy to do in golf. But I’m really not sure why I played as well as I did.

But I do know this, that what motivates me now and has since I became a follower of Jesus Christ is obedience to Him. To me that’s giving my best, shot-by-shot, hole-by-hole, day-by-day, tournament-by-tournament, and leave the results to Him. Sometimes we finish 100th. Sometimes first.

It just happened that after I hit my second shot to the final green at Bethesda, I knew it would be the latter. So I celebrated! Even though golf can be hard, that was one time when it was fun.

It’s like following Jesus Christ. It’s the “narrow way.” The difficult way. But it can also be fun and give us reason to celebrate.

COPYRIGHT 1992 LINKS PLAYERS INTERNATIONAL

  • Betsy King

    34 LPGA Tour Wins (six majors): 1984 Women’s Kemper Open, 1984 Freedom Orlando Classic, 1984 Columbia Savings Classic, 1985 Samaritan Turquoise Classic, 1985 Rail Charity Classic, 1986 Henredon Classic, 1986 Rail Charity Classic, 1987 Circle K LPGA Tucson Open, 1987 Nabisco Dinah Shore, 1987 McDonald’s Championship, 1987 Atlantic City Classic, 1988 Women’s Kemper Open, 1988 Rail Charity Golf Classic, 1988 Cellular One-Ping Golf Championship, 1989 Jamaica Classic, 1989 Women’s Kemper Open, 1989 USX Golf Classic, 1989 McDonald’s Championship, 1989 U.S. Women’s Open, 1989 Nestle World Championship, 1990 Nabisco Dinah Shore, 1990 U.S. Women’s Open, 1990 JAL Big Apple Classic, 1991 LPGA Corning Classic, 1991 JAL Big Apple Classic, 1992 Mazda LPGA Championship, 1992 The Phar-Mor in Youngstown, 1992 Mazda Japan Classic, 1993 Toray Japan Queens Cup, 1995 ShopRite LPGA Classic, 1997 Nabisco Dinah Shore, 2000 Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Open, 2000 LPGA Corning Classic, 2001 ShopRite LPGA Classic

    Member, World Golf Hall of Fame