By Dana Van Ostrand
Most athletes know what it’s like to be completely exhausted after a difficult practice, conditioning, or a tough game. However, I wouldn’t know because I play golf. This being said, I do know what it’s like to place my athletics ahead of the ultimacy of following Christ. I know what it’s like to be completely empty after a bad performance because I invested my time, my energy, and even put my identity into my athletic abilities.
I was leading the state tournament my junior year of high school with only six holes to play, leading by three shots. I then proceeded to make four bogies in those last six holes to eventually go into a playoff (golf’s version of overtime) and lose on the second hole. I was absolutely devastated. I’d spent a majority of my time in those last months preparing for that exact day and moment. It had been my goal to win a state championship and I could taste it – not to mention that the championship was on my former home course, in my home city. I attempted to be gracious to the champion and to everyone who was supporting me and my team, but in that moment, I was truly empty. Everything that I had put my heart and effort into was over that year, and I had lost. I choked.
This was a difficult experience for me to deal with. It was through this experience that I learned a few things about my pursuit of excellence in athletics. The first and most important lesson that I learned from this was that all of my achievements, abilities, and accomplishments are only a reflection of the talents that God has given me. God has given me the opportunity to harvest the abilities that He’s endowed me with. Because of Christ, I play for the glory of God and represent Christ in all that I do, including on the golf course. Win or lose, all I can do is continue to play in light of this. As Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for Lord rather than for men.” This means that in every tough practice, every strenuous weight room session, every difficult competition, we must pursue excellence in light of the ability that God has endowed us with.
Christ calls us to bring every single part of our life to Him as He molds, shapes, and transforms us for His glory. There are a couple things that I do on the golf course that remind me of what is ultimate while I’m competing in golf tournaments. A part of my pre-shot routine is a short prayer that just says, “For God’s glory.” This is a reminder for me that this shot isn’t about my glory, but God’s. The second is that my golf ball is marked with a cross near the Northwestern logo. This is another constant reminder for me on the golf course of the ultimate sacrifice paid by Jesus. Hitting a little white golf ball with a stick into a cup seems a lot less important in light of this. God has called us to be in the world, not of it, and part of this is pursuing excellence in athletics for His glory, not for our own.