And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:20-21, ESV)
By the time many of you read these words, the first players will have teed off in the US Open at Shinnecock Hills. We may see a great tournament with so many top competitors playing well right now, but it will be hard to match the drama we saw two weeks ago at Shoal Creek.
With nine holes to play at the 73rd US Women’s Open, Ariya Jutanugarn appeared to be on cruise control for a runaway victory. After stepping away from the television for an hour, I came back to witness Ariya tap in for bogey to finish a back-nine collapse. She was tied for the lead.
Throughout the four-hole playoff that followed, the three TV announcers in the booth–two of whom are major champions–used words like meltdown and catastrophe and deliberated over how losing a seven-shot lead and the eventual playoff would be a failure that could derail Ariya’s entire career. The negative spin went on and on and on. I had to walk away from the TV several times out of disgust.
Winning the US Women’s Open is a huge accomplishment and thousands of young ladies aspire to hold the trophy. What disappointed me most about listening to the announcers’ over-embellished comments was their emphasis on how losing the Open would devastate Ariya, a golfer who has already won a major championship and many other events. It was as if the announcers had placed winning the Open as the ultimate idol, not only for themselves, but also for a young woman whose internal thoughts they knew nothing about.
Despite exhaustion and disappointment, Ariya maintained her composure and remained patient, winning with a par save out of the greenside bunker on the fourth playoff hole. Whew! Career derailment diverted, golf fans.
My sense is that Ariya does not see the US Open trophy, or any other victory, as an unattained idol that would leave her ruined if she did not win. I don’t know if Ariya has an eternal understanding of Jesus, but I do believe that she has discovered a higher purpose, a why, for playing golf that far exceeds trophies and money. In a Golfweek article written by Beth Ann Nichols, Ariya is described as a young woman who “sees what winning can do for others.” Ariya loves children and is helping fund schools to provide education for children to “inspire the kids, not because I want them to play golf, but because I want them to have a good life.”
Nichols sums it up perfectly: “Shoal Creek was never going to define Jutanugarn. It might have broken her heart for a bit. Would’ve definitely taken up permanent residence in her mind. But she would’ve learned from it. Grown from it. Because we’ve already seen that resiliency from the now two-time major winner.”
Golf use to be an idol in my heart, breaking me when I failed and pushing me to the mountaintop when success came. And if I’m honest, I still struggle with what a friend shared recently, “Playing good golf is an idol in my life.”
As men and women who follow Jesus, our higher purpose is to “know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.” Jesus is the one we worship and seek with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind.
Where is your worship focused today? I pray it is pointed at Jesus.
Tracy Hanson
June 14, 2018
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