Throughout the season, any time I asked a player to recommend a tournament to bring my family to, 99% of the time they said the Portugal Masters. So that’s what I did, and it gave the visit to Vilamoura a special dimension, in that I had my wife Amy and daughter Jessica (2) with me.
Over the last few months I’ve mentioned many names and described several scenes to Amy, therefore having her and Jessica present to meet some of those people and understand the look and feel of the tournament set-up was good. It was important to us both.
At various points from Wednesday to Sunday, we’d be at the course for a couple of hours and often crossed paths with people for chats. Having the family with me put a different but nice slant on many of the conversations.
Away from the course, we also bumped into some golfers and their families at Vilamoura marina where most gathered for dinner in the evenings. On the Friday night we shared a lovely meal with one christian golfer and his fiancé, and that was a special time of fellowship.
After the tournament we stayed on for a couple of days holiday, and we managed to keep those days golf-free!!
Next week I’ll have what looks to be my penultimate LOGOS/CIS golf trip of 2018. It’s in my native Scotland at the Dunhill Links Championship – split between St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie. Looking forward to it!
Thanks again for your continued support and prayers.
The ‘greatest need’ for a lot of golfers in European Tour terms at the moment is to get inside the top 110 in the ‘Race to Dubai’ rankings. By doing that, a player will retain his full status on tour for the 2019 season. Falling short of that isn’t the end of the world by any means, but it restricts the player competing in certain events on the schedule next year.
Those currently outside the top 110 have a handful of tournaments left this season to excel and hopefully propel themselves up the rankings. So, with limited events left to do that, understandably it’s tense times for a lot of individuals as they see how the next few weeks unfold.
It was both good and worthwhile to be at the KLM Open in Spijk, Netherlands for a couple of days. ‘The Dutch’ golf course is an hour south of Amsterdam by car and we were blessed by some sunny weather.
When I arrived at my hotel on the Tuesday night, I crossed paths with an English golfer I had enjoyed a chat with in Prague at the Czech Masters three weeks previously. I had no idea he was going to be staying in the same place as me, and it was great to have dinner with him each night I was there.
He came along to our Bible study on Wednesday, when we looked at a passage in Mark 2 v 1-12 under the title ‘Man’s Greatest Need’. It looked as if the greatest need of the paralysed man in the story was to be physically healed, yet Jesus highlighted how forgiving the man’s sins was of more importance. Yet, he healed him too, in order to further show His authority as the Son of God!
Due to other commitments clashing, some players and caddies were not able to make the Bible study, but I spent one-to-one time with each of those at a different point in the day to catch up with how they were and to share a small bit of what we looked at in Mark 2.
I continue to thoroughly enjoy the on the European Tour and believe significant progress is being made in building relationships with people in that community.
God-willing, that will continue at the Portugal Masters next week in Vilamoura. My wife Amy and daughter Jessica are coming to that event with me and we’ll stay on for a few days holiday. it will be great for them to meet a few people in that environment.
The trip to Prague provided much encouragement during a few days at the European Tour’s Czech Masters event. It took place at the Albatross Golf Resort about 20 minutes in the car from the city centre. A very dry, parkland course sprinkled with some fetching man-made water hazards.
Being one of the more routine, smaller events on the schedule, the set-up at the Czech Masters was compact compared to The Open or Wentworth, for example, yet this can often have its benefits when it comes to access and a relaxed atmosphere.
Soon after landing in Prague on the Tuesday night, I met with a Christian golfer and his wife/caddie for dinner. He normally plays on the Asian Tour, so it had been a few months since I’d had the chance to see them, even though we are in contact through messaging quite regularly. It was a great couple of hours of fellowship over a meal. They are so sincere about their faith and it’s encouraging to see the way God is clearly part of their journey together.
Four players, a caddie, a coach and a player’s fiancé joined me at lunchtime on Wednesday for a Bible study at the golf course. It was warm enough for the eight of us to sit outside over coffee and read Luke 5 v 1-11 together, then reflect and discuss on what we could learn from that first encounter between Simon (Peter) and Jesus. One of the many things we talked about was how in golfing or evangelistic terms, there might over be times when we feel the work put in is not yielding the results we crave, yet Jesus asks us to “let down the nets again”! He’s right; we should!
The coach who joined us is a mature, committed American Christian who normally frequents the PGA Tour in the USA. He was a great encouragement to us all in various ways.
On Wednesday evening, God worked in a way only He can. Circumstances unfolded in an unexpected manner, resulting in me sharing a car journey back to the city centre with a European Tour golfer who I had never previously had the chance to properly talk to. He was interested in my role and by the end of the conversation he himself asked if he can join us when I meet with the other Christian players in a couple of weeks time at the KLM Open in the Netherlands. It’s not exactly clear where he stands in terms of his faith, but this is so encouraging. He is such a pleasant guy to talk to, so please pray his interest in discovering more remains until then.
Over and above those main highlights described, please be heartened to know that there are several more interactions with people – some just very brief ones – that I trust help establish and build relationships on the European Tour.
I have two weeks of family/church/work commitments back in Glasgow now before a double-header at the KLM Open and the Portugal Masters in September.
Please let me express my genuine thanks again for your support.
What a fortnight in Scotland! It’s been a privilege to have been involved for the full duration of both the Scottish Open and The Open – the first time I’ve worked at both of those events in the same year. They were staged at two links courses – Gullane and Carnoustie – totally deserving of top level golf, with the sun shining almost continuously throughout adding to everyone’s enjoyment.
Let’s start with the Scottish Open in Gullane, East Lothian – a region of Scotland known for its amazing golf courses. With this being a lucrative Rolex event and also a handy warm-up opportunity for The Open, there was a formidable field. Masters champion Patrick Reed played, as did the likes of Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, who had won at Gullane in 2015.
On the Wednesday before the Scottish Open, seven of us met for Bible study at a table in the sun outside the players’ lounge. Present were three players, a caddie, a coach, me and Ken Revie – the man who faithfully served in the LOGOS chaplaincy role before me. As I said to Ken, the amount of people who came to him as he walked along the practice range that day was testament to how good a job he had done establishing real relationships with those on the European Tour.
The seven of us read and reflected together on Exodus 3; the story of Moses being called by God from the burning bush. We reminded each other to be listening out for God’s voice and call, to have the confidence and faith to accept the calling and not to underestimate the power of the God who leads us into and through the calling. Afterwards we prayed together and it was heartening to do that as the busy-ness of the Scottish Open build-up went on around us.
One of the other highlights of the Scottish Open week was spending some time with one of the staff on the European Tour. He is extremely interested and supportive of the work and I’m so encouraged by that as we move forward.
The Open at Carnoustie was equally meaningful in some of the same ways and in some different ways. As many of you will know, The Open championship is referred to as ‘the one true test’ and arguably the best major of them all. All the big names were in the field, including a certain Mr Woods!
The magnitude of the event means that everyone seems busier and more focused than at other regular events, yet it was great that five of us were still able to put all that to one side for 45 minutes on the Wednesday. Only one of the players we normally meet with had managed to qualify for the Open; so he joined us, as did a caddie, a coach, and a member of the European Tour logistics team.
‘Be part of forever’ had been the 2018 Open’s catchphrase on their advertising, so I thought it was an appropriate chance for us to be reminded how, as Christians, we really can go into every day knowing we can ‘be part of forever’ through the eternal life promised to us through Jesus Christ. Again, we finished our meeting with a time of prayer and also a parting encouragement for us all to ‘Be still and know that I am God’ amidst a whirlwind week.
During the week of The Open there were other good opportunities to let some other Seniors Tour players know about the work on the European Tour. They are very open about their faith and were pleased to hear what goes on. I also had good chats with a Christian PGA Tour player from the USA, and a Christian caddie for another PGA Tour player.
At both the Scottish Open and The Open, I stayed on for the full events to fulfil BBC Scotland duties, and I was encouraged further about how the two roles continue to compliment each other.
I’m currently on holiday with family but look forward to resuming the Christians in Sport/LOGOS work at the Czech Masters near Prague towards the end of August.
Thanks for your support and prayers over this busy July!
Hype surrounded this year’s Open de France because the course upon which it is played – Le Golf National – is the venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup in September. Several big-name players were in the field with the added objective in mind of getting a proper peak at the course in advance of the iconic event in September.
World number two Justin Thomas (USA) was there, as were Jon Rahm (Spain), Graeme McDowell (NIR), Thomas Bjorn (Den), Ian Poulter (Eng) and Sergio Garcia (Spain). Le Golf National is a beautiful course, but a tough one, and the 25mph wind on a scorching Thursday made scoring difficult. Only 14 players in a field of 150+ finished in red numbers after the first round. The rough was unforgiving and it will be interesting to see if it is cut back slightly for the Ryder Cup.
On Wednesday, four of us – two players, a European Tour support staff member and I – had an encouraging hour studying Matthew chapter 8 and praying together. The phrase leading our time was ‘faith and following’, delving into the chapter and looking at the different stories in which varying levels of ‘faith and following’ manifested themselves.
There was the leper (v 1-4), the centurion (v 5-13), the teacher (v 18-22) and the disciples (v 23-27). Working our way through each of those four short accounts, we noted and reflected on examples of amazing faith, wavering faith, dedicated following of Jesus, or following that was outmuscled by other priorities. Laced through all that were constant reminders of the power, consistency, hope and reliability there is in Jesus Christ.
The notes from this study were circulated to five more people not present at the Open de France; two players and two caddies competing in the Asian Tour event in Thailand, and a golf coach often present on the European Tour.
On Thursday, during duties with the equipment survey, there was an unexpected conversation with a caddie. His response to hearing that I was involved in a Christian role was that some of his grown-up children find church meaningful back in the UK, therefore he has a healthy respect for the Christian faith.
Later on Thursday evening, I had a chance to catch up with a player-caddie partnership who I’ve regularly met with and got to know quite well. This was a shorter get-together, but an equally valuable one, particularly from the perspective of offering encouragement when it was needed.
So, all in, a lot squeezed into a couple of days and God blessed us in many ways. Through study, through fellowship, through unexpected conversations, through success in tasks needing completed and through safety in travel. I am thankful to Him for all of that. He definitely ‘goes before’ us.
A sincere thanks again to those who pray and support this role on the European Tour, which is continuing to be such a worthwhile one.
Amy, Jessica and I are having a week’s holiday in Scotland now, before a busy fortnight at the Scottish Open and The Open. At both I will stay on for the full week for BBC Scotland duties.
A busy three-week spell ended with a great few days at the Shot Clock Masters in Atzenbrugg, Austria – about an hour west of Vienna in the car. I had been to Austria once before in 2010 but was again struck by how pleasant a country it is. The towns I passed through or stayed in were all very clean and people seem to do a good job of looking after their own patch.
This was a lower profile European Tour event than the likes of Wentworth’s PGA Championship and the Italian Open in the weeks earlier, but still a really productive one in terms of relationship building.
Two Scottish players and a caddie arrived at Vienna airport at the same time as me and we ended up sharing a car journey to the golf course together, which was the first of several nice, unplanned opportunities that week to get to know people better.
On another occasion, I shared a meal with five caddies and it was interesting to have conversations with them about some of the joys and challenges of that role.
Of the players I normally meet up with for a Bible study, there was only one of them playing at this event, but we still had a meaningful time together looking at the closing part of the story of Joseph in a few different parts of Genesis 45 – 50.
We focused on the mercy and grace shown by Joseph to his brothers, when he revealed his identity in Egypt. The brothers, in the knowledge of their wrongdoing towards him, expected Joseph would want retribution, yet Joseph was forgiving and willing to give them a fresh start.
Genesis 50 v 20-21: Joseph said to his brothers: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid, I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
We then paralleled that with a well known verse in Romans to reflect on God’s mercy and grace towards us through Jesus Christ.
Romans 5 v 8: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Even if all the players I normally meet with are not there, the content of the study is still circulated to them so they can reflect on it wherever they are in the world!
Further chances and opportunities to get alongside new people arose unexpectedly during the week, and it highlighted again to me that God goes before us and prepares the way for encounters he wants to happen – even if it is just to talk about normal things. I am hugely encouraged and excited about the week in Austria.
The next event I’m attending is the Open de France at the end of June, so it will be nice to have a couple of weeks over the next fortnight where my work keeps me in the Glasgow area.
The European Tour moved from Wentworth to Brescia, near the south of Lake Garda, for the Italian Open and it was great to be part of another one of the more high-profile events on the calendar. Fleetwood, Poulter, McDowell, Noren, Kaymer…many big names were there competing for a prize pot in equal value to Wentworth.
Crowds were predictably lower than that of England a week before, but the weather warmer and the ‘Gardagolf’ course stunning in places. It is the golfing home of Italy’s Matteo Mannasero.
Wednesday was spent catching up with three golfers and a caddie for some Bible study and prayer. We looked at part of the story of Joseph in Genesis – what a great character to learn lessons and take inspiration from!
We looked at some of the different periods in his life between Genesis 37 – 41. Periods of prosperity and periods of prison, yet God was with him during both. Periods of pressure when he made the right call in difficult situations because of his close relationship with God. Periods of proclaiming when he picked his moments to publicly acknowledge God’s help in his life.
The players were encouraged by reflecting on these areas of Joseph’s story and there were several parallels able to be drawn to the golfing world as well.
One of the players also introduced me to a golf coach who is a Christian and who is keen to keep in touch. He won’t be present at every event, but will meet with us at those he does come to.
That’s five events I’ve attended now and I’m thankful for how they have gone in terms of continuing the work with the Christian golfers, and in terms of building relationships with other players and people. A lot of conversations happen over these days at events – some short, some long – and they are all valuable in different ways.
Tomorrow morning, I fly out to Vienna for the Austria Shot-clock Masters. I’m looking forward to it and would appreciate your continued prayer support; for safety in travel and for the chance to have more meaningful times.
What a privilege to be able to spend the week at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, the first time I’ve experienced that event in person.
Mixed weather on Thursday and Friday was gradually replaced by scorching sun at the weekend, providing fitting conditions for Italy’s Francesco Molinari to win after finishing as runner-up to Alex Noren last year.
I arrived on Tuesday evening and stayed in Sunningdale, just five minutes away by car. Wednesday’s focus was purely on supporting some of the Christian golfers/caddies and at this event it worked out better to see them individually at different times, because the hype and busyness is much more than that of regular tournaments. It was heartening, also, to have one of the golfer’s girlfriends meet with us (she is also a Christian, but does not usually attend events because of the long travel it involves).
In the days leading up to Wentworth, the words in this verse in Genesis 28 v 20 had been on my heart:
“Then Jacob made a vow – if God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking, and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I can return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God.”
Jacob had his flaws and sometimes his decision-making was questionable. But we mustn’t be too quick to criticise because that can sometimes be true of us as well! Here was a juncture in his life when he saw the big picture of God’s provision, leading and sovereignty so clearly, and when that sunk in, what was his reaction?….”The Lord will be my God.”
My encouragement to the golfers and caddies was that God would continue to provide, bless and lead them on their golfing “journey”, and that they should not lose sight of His hand guiding them on that journey, even during more challenging times. We concluded that making “the Lord my God” is most definitely worth it.
It won’t always be the case, but each of those players made the cut and two of them had top-20 finishes in what is the European Tour’s flagship event.
On Thursday, I helped as usual with the equipment survey and that continues to be a really useful time to be close again with the players and caddies. Later in the day, I crossed the path of a high-profile Scottish sportsman who was attending the event as a spectator. I had met him before through BBC work and it was good to share briefly with him the Christian aspect to my role on the European Tour.
I stayed on until the end of the event to fulfil duties for BBC Scotland and there’s absolutely no doubt my role in that capacity is only beneficial for my overall role on the European Tour, in terms of building relationships.
On Monday, I flew back to Glasgow and then on Tuesday I flew out to Milan before driving to Brescia/Lake Garda for three days at the Italian Open. It is great to have this opportunity.
While I am away my wife Amy is doing a faithful job looking after our two-year old daughter Jessica, so please pray for their ongoing blessing and protection, too.
Thank you for your support and prayers, of which I really am sincerely grateful.
The second European Tour trip of the year was at the Trophee Hassan II event in Morocco. It is held at the stunning Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course just outside the country’s capital, Rabat. In many ways it’s an immaculate setting, but there was a feeling amongst the 156-strong field that the greens were too difficult, because of the challenging undulations on them that were a recent tweak by the course designer.
One golfer mentioned that on some greens, if putting from 25 feet, it was difficult to get it within 10 feet, and that players would find themselves trying to hole eight or nine foot putts to make par. That, perhaps, then explains why there were a clutch of players up at +7 or +8 after the opening round!
Sunny weather was a real bonus, especially after an unexpectedly cold and windy time in Madrid the week before. Despite being close to the coast, the golf course is surrounded and laced with many mature trees and therefore it was almost dead calm for round one on Thursday.
At midday on Wednesday I met up with two golfers so we could spend some time looking at a few Bible verses and then pray together. We reflected on the idea of being ‘bold’ for Christ, and how we can be confident in God equipping us with the ability and courage to do that, if we make it our desire. Here are a couple of the verses we looked at:
Ephesians 6 v 19-20:“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
Acts 4 v 13:“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
I encouraged the two guys not to underestimate the power they can have for God in being ambassadors for Jesus Christ – in the way they behave, in the way they speak and in the way they play golf. The verse in Acts was encouraging because it reminded them that they do not have to be Bible scholars to represent Christ in a good way. Our prayer at the end was that other players will gradually sense that the Christian players are people who ‘have been with Jesus’, so to speak.
There was another player-caddie partnership that had expressed interest in the meeting on Wednesday, but weren’t able to make it. However, I caught up with them for 20 minutes on the putting green later in the day for a chat and that was very worthwhile in gathering more context about their lives.
I can already see how the process is of building relationships and trust with players, caddies and others involved in the European Tour operation is gradual, yet crucial.
Thursdays are very busy in terms of the equipment survey for much of the morning and afternoon, but there was still the opportunity to go out and take in some golf and I varied who I spent time watching.
Overall, I continue to be very grateful for this role on the European Tour, and can see why this presence is so worthwhile. Two events in, I’ve probably made more progress than I expected on the relationship-building side of it, so that is something to be thankful to God for.
The next tournament I attend is from 8-10 May at the Rocco Forte Open in Sicily, so it would be really great if you can pray that God can go before me on that trip.
My first golf trip with Christians in Sport / LOGOS to the Open de Espana was really worthwhile, interesting and enjoyable – even though the weather in Madrid was quite overcast and cold until Thursday!
Before travelling to Spain, I was encouraged by a verse that my predecessor Ken Revie shared with me:
Isaiah 52 v 12: “…The Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”
Remembering that small sentence from the Bible helped me to go into this first event with reassurance of God’s support and help.
It was great to touch base with a few of the players/caddies who are Christians. In particular, I chatted with two players and one caddie who are keen to meet on a regular basis. I’m really looking forward to developing these relationships over the coming months. Next week in Morocco we’ll spend a longer time together looking at a Bible passage and praying together before the tournament begins.
But in a wider sense this work is also about developing relationships and trust with golfers / caddies who are not Christians (the very large majority). So that can often mean simply talking about golf, other sports (most of the golfers are also big football fans!) and family.
I had good chats at the course with a few of the Scottish players who I had existing relationships with through BBC work. Then over dinner I got to know another player from further afield. They are all aware of what my role with Christians in Sport / LOGOS entails, even though it didn’t dominate those conversations.
During the couple of days in Madrid, one person in particular asked me several sincere questions about my Christian faith, and sometimes it was quite challenging to answer those! It was a strong reminder to me that people are searching for true hope in life.
On Thursdays at events, I help a sports marketing company do a survey of players’ equipment. This means being on the practice range for a large part of the day, noting what clubs / balls / clothes the players use, as they each come to the range for 30-60 minutes before they start the tournament. It is another good way of being in close contact with the players and their caddies.
My prayer is that I can be a good ambassador for Christ in the way I speak and act in all my dealings with people on the European Tour.
This Saturday it’s back to BBC football work in Glasgow and then next Tuesday I fly to Rabat in Morocco for a couple of days at the Trophee Hassan event.