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A Win for the Ages

When fairy tale stories come true, sometimes Hollywood is criticized for an unbelievable ending.  Yet, what Nate Lashley accomplished last weekend can only be described as a win for the ages.  Lashley’s wire to wire victory at the Rocket Mortgage PGA Tour event in Detroit, Michigan seemed surreal.  Entering the final round with a six shot lead, commentators suggested that a collapse might come, causing Nate to fold under the pressure.  Instead, a Tiger Woods esc domination ensued as Lashley finished 25 under par, breezing to win this PGA event.  The context of what happened leading up to this victory makes Lashley’s accomplishment a real life Cinderella story and likely Disney movie in the making.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

Fifteen years ago, Nate Lashley was a rising college star playing for the Arizona Wildcats.  While competing in an NCAA qualifying tournament, his parents and girl-friend flew out to watch Nate play in the west regionals.  On the return flight, the plane piloted by Nate’s father crashed during a storm killing all three aboard.  This tragedy eventually caused Nate to leave golf, making a career as a real estate agent.  When Nate’s love for golf returned, nagging injuries prevented Lashley for reaching his full potential.  Playing on what is called a major medical exemption, Nate was running out of time to make enough money to keep his PGA tour card.  Thus, Nate attempted to Monday qualify for 4 spots in the Rocket Mortgage Tournament.  Lashley finished two shots out of a playoff, but a last second withdraw opened the door for Nate to become the last player in the field.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

As a viewer of this amazing feat, Lashley’s rise to the top is a story of courage, faith and perseverance.  In the back of any mind, doubts whisper “you’ll never amount to anything; you’re not good enough or you don’t have what it takes.”  These inner demons prevent most people from fulfilling their dreams and purpose in life.  Yet, Nate Lashley’s win for the ages inspires me to not give up hope on accomplishing my own dreams in life.  Just as Jesus’ earthly brother writes about how trials strengthen faith, may God fill you will perseverance to fear any face and climb any mountain, no matter how high, in the future.

by Jay Mankus


Inside the Ropes

My wife spent several years working for a company which received VIP passes to sporting events. During a four year span, my family and I got infield passes to the Nascar Race at Dover Downs, a.k.a. the Monster Mile. These tickets gave me access to see victory lane, the pit crew area and a meet and greet with a driver, Ryan Newman. Two years later, my wife received Club House passes to Tiger Woods’ PGA Tour event in Washington D.C. During a rain delay, I talked with a caddie who was eating lunch on the patio, waiting for his player to hole a short putt for par on the 18th green. These experiences brought me inside the ropes, getting up close and personal with professional athletes and their inner circle.

When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in [to the city] from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. 27 Following Him was a large crowd of the people, including women who were mourning and wailing for Him. 28 But Jesus, turning toward them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that have not given birth, and the breasts that have never nursed,’ Luke 23:26-29.

The Bible has several examples of individuals gaining access inside the ropes. The passage above details a man who didn’t volunteer. Rather, Simon became a part of Jesus’ crucifixion story, sent in to carry the cross for Jesus when his strength faltered. Due to Jewish ceremonial rules, crucifixions took place outside the city gates on a hill called Golgotha. The passage above doesn’t detail how long Simon carried Jesus’ cross, but based upon the topography of Jerusalem this likely occurred while going up a steep hill. This is the first and last reference of Simon of Cyrene in the Bible, yet its a subtle way of how the Lord could use individuals who make themselves available to serve God.

I assure you and most solemnly say to you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and walked wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and arms, and someone else will dress you, and carry you where you do not wish to go.” 19 Now He said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And after saying this, He said to him, “Follow Me [walk the same path of life that I have walked]!” – John 21:18-19

While Simon of Cyrene was inside the ropes, another Simon, a member of Jesus’ inner circle was hiding. Fearful that they might face the same fate as Jesus, all the disciples except John watched from a distance. Prior to news of Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples were hiding in a room, wondering what they were going to do now that Jesus was dead. According to John 21, Peter went back to his former trade, staying up all night fishing. A man on shore gave Peter insight about where the fish were. Initially skeptical, Peter begrudgingly agrees to follow his advice culminating in a record catch. Immediately following this, Jesus forgives Peter for his public denial. In the passage above, Jesus prophesies about Peter’s death, crucified upside down. As the Holy Spirit provides believers to access inside the ropes, God expects great things to those who follow the same path as Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Taking Ownership of A Desire for Greatness

In a June 2013 post on Live Science, Stephanie Pappas wrote about some parents wanting to live their lives through their kids.  One of the flaws to this mindset is that rarely do these teenagers share the same desire for greatness.  When potential is revealed, seen or witnessed, aspiring parents may encourage, nudge or push children into a specific activity, hobby or sport.  Thousands of dollars are shelled out per year for competitions, equipment, lessons and travel teams.  With the rising costs of higher education, a full ride is the only way some students will ever be able to attend college.  Thus, parents do whatever they can for a loved one.  The only question is do these potential stars share the same dreams and vision of their parents?

God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend, Job 37:5.

You make a case for both sides of this argument.  For example, take Tiger Woods whose father Earl prepared Eldrick to become a golfing phenom as soon as he could walk.  Earl Woods used his military background to mentality test Tiger’s mind for every scenario on a golf course and in a tournament.  During Tiger’s prime, Woods was a machine, defying the experts with an epic run toward the greatest golfer of all time.  However, when Earl Woods died in May of 2006, Tiger’s amazing stretch slowed down after winning the 2008 United States Open, his last major title.  While injuries has played a part to his decline, perhaps Earl’s absence enabled Tiger to let his guard down, to lose his edge.  Whatever the reason, Tiger has altered his goals, enjoying playing golf again with a healthy body.

You will increase my greatness and comfort me again, Psalm 71:21.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Capriati is a good counter for the opposing side whose parents seemed to want success more than Jennifer at times.  This tennis star turned pro at age 13, winning 3 majors and a gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games.  However, television displayed the emotion of a teenager taking center stage before fully maturing.  Between Jennifer’s initial success, her parent’s desire for greatness and becoming burned out at an early age for a professional athlete, Capriati’s full potential was never realized.  Like anyone I’m sure she would like to go back and do certain things differently, yet at some point rising stars need to take ownership of a parent’s desire for greatness.  If not, greatness will fizzle out sooner rather than later.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13.

As a parent, I struggle with knowing when to push my children and when to walk away.  I believe every parent wants the best for their children, but selfish desires may interfere with your own ability to be a good parent.  During my fifteen years of coaching high school and youth sports, I found myself caring more than my players.  I take each defeat and loss personally, re-evaluating in my mind to see if I did everything in my power to set my players up for success.  In some circumstances, I was responsible for a loss, taking the blame.  However, I learned that if my kids don’t care, I need to rethink my priorities.  Am I too serious, not forceful enough or do I need to let go to see if someone takes ownership of a desire for greatness?  I still haven’t figured this out, but I am hopeful and prayerful that one day my children will develop a desire for greatness in this life.

by Jay Mankus



Turning Yourself In

As fading PGA stars Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson pass the torch to Rory Mcilroy and Jordan Spieth, several player careers often go unnoticed.  While human interest stories like Erik Compton, a heart transplant recipient received attention after his second place finish at the 2014 U.S, Open, television coverage typically ignores mediocre players.  Nonetheless, golf is a gentleman’s game, with participants responsible for reporting rules infractions.  Thus, even when the cameras aren’t present, a spirit of integrity prompts many professionals to turn themselves in so to speak.

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight, Proverbs 12:22.

This is where three time winner Scott Stallings takes honesty to a whole new level.  Following a bout with chronic fatigue, sleeping up to 16 hours a day, a doctor reminded a prescription to address this condition.  Unfortunately for Stallings, this drug was on the P.G.A. tour’s banned substance list.  After doing some research, Scott recently realized his lapse in judgment.  Therefore, Stallings acted upon his convictions, notifying the commissioner of his mistake.  The penalty for turning himself in, Stallings received a three month suspension effective immediately.

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices, Colossians 3:9.

In this moral climate, a sense of entitlement exists as if to say, “its only wrong if you get caught.”  However, for Stallings, at least he will be able to sleep at night, knowing the right thing was done.  The only comparison I think of is reactions following the Passion of the Christ.  In the days preceding the release of the Passion of the Christ, 2004, convicted hearts began to publicly confess sins of the past.  In fact, a few criminals turned themselves in to the authorities.  Perhaps, the honesty of Scott Stallings will inspire others to come forward and make this country a better place to live.

by Jay Mankus




Idiots on Golf Courses

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools, Proverbs 26:3.

The internet contains a series of theories on why golf is on the decline in America.  One suggests a shrinking middle class is killing golf.  Others point to the amount of time its takes to play 18 holes causing once diehards to opt to spent their time elsewhere.  As for me, I’m more blunt, believing there are too many idiots on golf courses.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid, Proverbs 12:1.

Before I could play on a golf course as a kid, I had to take a test on the rules of the game.  In addition, I had to shoot a set score for four and nine holes prior to being able to play 18 holes of golf.  Although golf might have been seen as an elitist sport in these days, there was a respect for the game and courses available for play.  Today, golf courses will allow any hack to play as long as they fork over money for their greens fees.

O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense, Proverbs 8:5.

According to Webster, an idiot consists of a challenged, foolish or stupid individual, unable to see the error of their way.  Much like the twosome in front of me today, students from the Happy Gilmore school of golf.  However, this couple waited for each green to clear, several hundred yards away before chunking shots that went 30-50 yards at a time.  This scenario continued like Groundhog Day for 9 holes ruining a beautiful day and my son’s desire to play any more holes.  If the popularity of Tiger Woods, Rory Mcilroy and Jordan Spieth can’t stop this trend, idiots on golf courses will reign supreme until desperate measures are taken.

Please feel free to share your own feelings on this topic.

by Jay Mankus



NBC in affiliation with the Golf Channel debuted their 1 hour special Payne Sunday June 8th, 2014 and reaired this on Monday to commemorate Payne Stewart’s last major golf championship, the 1999 United States Open Championship at Pine Hurst #2.  With Phil Mickelson seeking to win the career grand slam this year at the place where Payne outdeuled him by 1 shot, the timing makes perfect sense.  However, on October 25th, 1999, the world had a different kind of chase, watching cable news networks all day to locate a Leer jet which lost cable pressure shortly after take off, drifting way off course as fighter jets began to follow it.  Winning the P.G.A. Championship on my birthday while in college, I remember this fateful day like it was yesterday as sports lost one of its greatest characters.

Clips  from Payne’s funeral was aired and replayed by the Golf Channel, with many of golf’s greatest players in the attendance, most notably a young Tiger Woods.  Speeches by Paul Azinger and Tracy Stewart his wife, inspired a 2 hour special in 1999, moving most who saw it to tears.  Like a classic movie, I think I watched this original tribute to Payne a half dozen times, eventually leading me to name my second son, Daniel Payne.  In my humble opinion, this second attempt to portray the real Payne Stewart cut and edited out whom became in his final years on earth.

Sure, to captivate an audience, its important to share Payne’s initial years as a brash individual who was immature and at times a jerk.  Clearly explaining Payne’s father influence on his attire, knickers and flare for the game was also beneficial.  Nonetheless, the editors purged Payne’s faith from this film, replacing in with religion.  This sort of revisionist history is disingenuous to those whose closely followed Payne’s transformation from a sinner to a saint.  The NEA may be able to get away with changing history to coincide with its own worldview in modern text books, but the spiritual legacy Payne Stewart has left behind is inspiring me to seek out and attain the abundant life Payne found, John 10:10.  May all who search, find, peace, joy and love before breathing their last breathe, 1 Corinthians 13:13.

by Jay Mankus


Is That All I Needed?

After spending 3 seasons as an assistant golf professional and another 10 coaching high school boys and girls, I’ve seen my share of bad golf swings.  While many were beyond help, I did have a few success stories.  The most recent involved a player who had a decent short game, but their swing produced a slice like an out of control boomerang.  Observing from behind the range, I discovered a major glitch.  With one slight adjustment, this senior went from struggling to break 60 consistently for 9 holes to shooting 94 for 18 in his last conference tournament.

The other day, I left my house without my Bible and journal before leaving for work.  My daily routine involves getting to work 30 minutes early, listening to music, read and journal my prayers and thoughts before each shift.  Unprepared, I had to wing it, quietly preparing myself for another 40 hour week.  Since I was running late, I only had a few minutes before exiting my car.  Void of any earth shattering content, I yielded my future over to the Lord, placing it solely in His hands.  Twenty minutes later I was called back to my seasonal management position leading me to ponder, “is that all I needed?  Is this what God was waiting for me to do?”

Whether you’re trying to improve your golf game or follow God, sometimes the slightest adjustment produces amazing results.  Perhaps, this was the message Moses was trying to relay to Israel before his retirement, Deuteronomy 28:1-14.    Either way, the next time you experience periods of inconsistency, invite the Lord to become your Rock during the trying times in life, Psalm 28:1-2.

by Jay Mankus

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