LINKS LETTER, DECEMBER 2000

WHY ME, GOD?

By Paul Stankowski

All the time I ask myself those questions: Why Paul Stankowski? Why not someone else—one of the other hundred guys who don’t make it on Tour?

I was only one roll of a sand shot away from not making it to the next stage of Qualifying School in 1993. Four players were tied, and only two spots were available. I was one of the four players. On the first hole, one of the guys knocked his shot within a foot. His birdie and his spot at the next stage of Q-school were guaranteed.

Now there were three of us for one spot.

But the hole wasn’t over. One of the other four players faced a sand shot that demanded he get up and down if he wanted to stay in the playoff. He nearly did better than that. His shot came out of the sand and started tracking its way to the hole. It stopped one roll short. Had that ball gone in, I would have been out. I would not have gone on to the next stage—which I did by taking the final spot on the next hole. I would not have made the Tour for 1994. It was that close.

Where I would be today is a mystery. Maybe I would have become better because I missed that year. Maybe I would never have made it at all. The fact is, I don’t work harder than other players. I don’t swing better. I’m not in perfect shape. (Actually, I’m lazy!)

So why?

I don’t know why—except that it is for now God’s place for me. I’m not saying it is His will for me. His will for me is to serve Him wherever I am. Where I am right now is on the PGA Tour.

I know some people might call my story just coincidence or luck, but I really don’t think so. I wasn’t even searching for God when I gave my life to Him.

In my freshman year of college at the University of Texas, El Paso, we were out in California for the NCAA championship. College Golf Fellowship sponsored a dinner and Scott Simpson, the defending US Open champion, spoke. Scott shared his testimony of how Jesus Christ had changed his life after Scott had spent a long time wrestling with the truth of the Bible.

Because I had grown up in church, I wasn’t threatened by the message. I knew, though, that Scott’s message was different than the one I had experienced and believed. But I wasn’t ready to make a commitment. I was a freshman in college, away from home, having a great time. So I heard the message and I filed it away—for awhile. Those words came back loud and clear later in my life. Two years later, to be exact.

In 1990, during my junior year at UTEP, I finally said, “OK, Lord.” I had read through the book of John and heard different guys talk about their experience with Christ. I knew the Gospel, that I’m a sinner, that God is holy and perfect, and the only way for me to get to Heaven would be to live a perfect life. But I didn’t live a perfect life.

I needed Christ. Christ died for my sins to allow me to get to Heaven. I had heard about praying a prayer, or something of that sort, and to the best of my recollection I prayed something like, “Lord, I’m a sinner. I need You to forgive me. I accept that fact that You died on the cross to forgive my sins. Thank you for that.” I didn’t see any sparks or shooting stars or anything, but I continued to read the Bible for about a week. I had a guy send me some Christian music.

But I still lived in a house with 10 guys from my golf team, and it didn’t take long for the influence of the world to get back to me. I quickly shut the Bible and stuck it on my desk. For a year I went back to living the party life in college.

A year later, my brother got married. My brother had committed his life to Christ, and I was looking forward to his wedding, because I knew there were guys in his wedding who followed Christ. I had never hung out with solid guys before. I didn’t have any friends who followed Christ. I needed to hang out with some guys who were godly guys.

During the wedding I rededicated my life. I set a goal to find a church, or find an organization like Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I knew about FCA, because there were a couple guys in my class in college who were involved in it. So I got back from the wedding and hooked up with First Baptist Church in El Paso and FCA at UTEP. I went from having no Christian friends to having probably 30 in about a week.

It’s amazing how it changed my life. God totally put people in my life. He knew the areas in life where I struggled. And now, through fellowship, there was that alternative. Before that, it was like I had nowhere to turn other than the Bible. I still felt alone because I was so brand new in my life with Christ. I didn’t know where to go. Now I had guys that were there for me. I had questions, and—boom—they would have answers for me. They were encouraging to me. They took me as one their brothers. It was a great experience for me, and I am so glad that those guys were in my life. I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have fellowship.

I know it is easy to look back on life and say that all the good things are from God. Some people think that is too simple an explanation. But it is what I believe. And it comes straight from the Bible. In the book of Romans, Paul wrote, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

For me, golf has been one of those good things that God has given me. Making the PGA Tour was even better. And winning tournaments on the Tour—wow! But none of those things comes close to the best things God has given me: a wonderful family, encouraging friends, and the greatest gift of all, His Son Jesus Christ.

Why me? That may be the first question I have for the Lord when I see Him in Heaven. Until then, I’ll just keep letting Him use me where He has put me.

COPYRIGHT 2000 LINKS PLAYERS INTERNATIONAL

  • Paul Stankowski

    2 PGA Tour Wins: 1996 BellSouth Classic, 1997 United Airlines Hawaiian Open