Sunday, July 8, 2012
Golfing For God
By Nico Bougas
Special to ASSIST News Service
ATHENS, GREECE (ANS) -- Playing in one of the world’s major tournaments is the dream of every young professional golfer. And playing in the British Open became a reality when earlier this year when 26 year-old South African golfer, Andrew Georgiou, grabbed one of the three qualifying spots at a special qualification tournament in Johannesburg.
With nothing to lose he decided to approach the next and final round aggressively. He started off with a birdie. After the first nine he knew he needed a strong finish in order to qualify. His confidence was up. He birdied the 12th, 15, 16th and 18th holes. He was rapidly moving up the leaderboard and was now placed at 5th which was a great recovery after his disappointing first round but he was still outside the top three to qualify for the British Open.
Having finished his round he spent the next hour anxiously focused on the leaderboard. As the numbers came in he moved up to 4th and then tied for 3rd, which would have meant a play-off, and then he moved up to 2nd spot. No play-off was necessary – he was on his way to the British Open following in the footsteps of other great South African golfers who had won the Open in past years – Bobby Locke, Gary Player, Ernie Els, and Louis Oosthuizen.
All of this places a tremendous amount of pressure on a young golfer in his fourth year as a pro. But Andrew has a different perspective than many other pro golfers. He says, “Before every round of golf, I commit it to Jesus, then go out and compete as hard as I can. I know my Lord wants me to be a winner. He wants me to give 100 percent of everything I have-in my practice, in using my mind, and in playing the best I know how-and then thank Him for the results, whatever they are. That takes a lot of pressure off because if you do that, you are winner in Jesus' eyes, no matter what happens.”
He goes on to explain, “I was young and didn’t fully understand the commitment I was making but the Holy Spirit guided me through my teens. There were many times in my teens where I could have tried drugs and gone down the wrong path but I can happily say that I have never tried any type of drug in my life. There was and is still the pressure of sexual immorality but fortunately I can also say that I am waiting for marriage and wear a purity ring to this day.”
His golf career has not been all smooth sailing. As a 17 year-old he had a disastrous participation in the SA Amateur qualifier and felt angry with God. It was crucial for him for him to do well in this tournament to make the Junior World Cup Team. This would open up endless opportunities in the golfing world but he failed to make the grade. “The problem was that I wanted it so badly, that God was not my first priority. He taught me the lesson that He does indeed work in mysterious ways and that he always needs to be no.1 in my life.”
As it happened those that did make the Junior World Cup Team ended up playing poorly in tough conditions and Andrew actually moved up the rankings by not playing! He moved from 7th to 4th and then went on to play well in the SA Boys tournament the following week and ended up getting a spot on the 4-man team that traveled to Japan.
From then on his career gained momentum. He played well in Japan and the South African team ended up finishing 2nd overall. This enabled him to get a full-ride scholarship to Columbus State University. He had an exceptional college career and was a 4-time All American and the only player in CSU history to compete in every single event!
At college he felt the pressures of college life and being far away from home. These were also times of drawing closer to God and being prepared for what was to come in the professional ranks. He was also helped by fellow believers. The college team regularly met for prayer. This was a practice that continued on the South African Sunshine Tour where a number of prominent golfers regularly took part in a Bible study group called, “Golfers for God”.
In his first year on the pro circuit he faced major back problems and was sidelined for 8 months. It was feared that his career as a golf pro was seriously in jeopardy. This was a major time of testing and trial. He had just begun to make his mark as a professional and was strongly in the hunt for the “rookie of the year” title. And now his whole promising career was under threat. Much prayer went up for him and he spent some time listening and meditating on the tape series, “Christ the Healer”. Eventually he found a back specialist in the States who was able to sort out his back problem.
Reflecting on his chosen career, Andrew says, “I can truly say that without Jesus in my life I wouldn’t have ended up where I am today. I still have my ups and downs however I now know that the Lord has a greater purpose and plan and He provides me with an inner peace whatever situation I find myself in. I look forward to what He has in store for my journey and I will glorify him all the way.”
He is about to participate in the biggest tournament of his young life. “I am naturally very excited and working hard to give of my very best. I certainly want to make the cut (after 36 holes only the top 70 scores qualify to play the final two rounds), then my goal is to finish in the top 10 and if I get that far, who knows? “Who knows indeed, maybe we will still see the name of Andrew Georgiou alongside that of Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Seve Ballesteros, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead and other golfing legends on the famous Silver Claret Jug.
We regularly ask people to pray for missionaries and those in full time ministry, we should also be praying for high profile sports stars and this aspiring young golfer as he seeks to make an impact through his witness at the famous Royal Lytham & St Annes golf course – July 15-18.
Nico Bougas is the International Development Director for Hellenic Ministries. He has a master's degree in communication from Wheaton Graduate School and M. Div and D. Min degrees from Trinity Theological Seminary. He is the author of five books. He previously worked for Youth for Christ in South Africa and was Editor of In Magazine and Christian Living TODAY and currently serves as Consulting Editor for JOY Magazine and is an Associate of Sports Outreach Africa. For further, information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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