Tracy Hanson had a successful All-American Collegiate golf career at San Jose State University that included eleven individual tournament wins, an NCAA Team Championship, a USGA Public Links Championship, and Low Amateur honors at the USGA Women’s Open. She played her first year professionally in thirteen different countries and was Order of Merit Winner in Asia and Rookie of the Year on the Ladies European Tour. Tracy enjoyed fifteen successful seasons on the Ladies Professional Golf Tour before retiring in 2009.
Within a year of stepping away from the performance expectations of professional golf, Tracy embarked on a new journey. This journey has included unpacking the truth about harm and abuse she experienced as a child, embracing her beauty as a woman of God, and a growing in her passion to live more deeply from her heart. Christ’s redemptive work in Tracy’s life has given birth to her speaking and ministry activities. She desires to share her story with men, women, and young people who are looking for hope in their own lives.
Tracy’s hobbies include facilitating trips to the Holy Land, riding her motorcycle, spending time in the outdoors, running, and reading. She also writes monthly devotionals for Links Players International and is a guest writer for redtentliving.com. Tracy is a trained leader for Open Hearts Ministry Journey groups and has completed the Allender Center Lay Counseling Certificate Program.
I share my story with the hopes you will hear this: When we ask Jesus into our lives, it doesn’t mean He makes our pain and struggles disappear.
I grew up in what appeared to be a perfect middle-class family in Northern Idaho. Our physical needs and wants were met, but I don’t have many memories of my emotional needs being nurtured. Early on, I received the message that I was supposed to be a boy, and my femininity was not encouraged. As a result, I was a confused child trying to be what my dad wanted me to be, fighting against my God-given desires to be a little girl.
I learned at a very early age that sports were a way I could connect with my dad, so I started playing golf with him. When I saw my dad’s pride over my first trophy at age ten, I was hooked. I learned that the better I performed, the more I felt noticed and loved.
Over the years, I found that hiding behind the mask of performance numbed the emptiness I felt inside. My identity became directly tied to my ability to perform and please others.
I was recruited to play golf at San Jose State University, and at seventeen years old I drove a thousand miles by myself to San Jose. It was a very scary transition for a shy, small town girl. It was during this long drive that I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart—but I didn’t really know what that meant. I was desperate and needed something to grab onto during a time of great ambivalence in my life that included sexual harm.
It wasn’t until a year later that I started to understand that I was a child of the living God and that my identity is found in Him alone, yet I still struggled with believing I could be loved for just being me, instead of for what I could do. I experienced waves of spiritual growth in the following years, and I know Jesus was the thread that held me together in the chaos of my life. But I was carrying a secret that felt too big, even for God, and I continued to use performance to hide and numb my pain.
My identity became directly tied to my ability to perform and please others.
Soon after graduating from SJSU, I was swinging a club and on my way to the LPGA Tour. I played sixteen successful years before retiring. Along with the shame I felt, I experienced the deaths of my mom, aunt, and sister within a six-year period in the middle of my career. I not only hid behind my performance during these years, I also hid behind the mask of “Christian Professional Athlete.” Surely I couldn’t share my secrets and pain jeopardizing my platform to share about Jesus.
Silencing my pain, desires, and longings became a way of survival. Over all the years I tried to let go of the harm and damage from my childhood and move on without talking about it, the shame and self-contempt only deepened.
The first year after I retired from the tour, I gave myself permission to rest and recover from the mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion I experienced as a professional athlete. I was tired of hiding behind the mask of “Successful Professional Golfer,” and with the help of a few trusted women, I started down the journey of risking putting honest words to the harm I experienced on and off the course.
I have found my voice again, and even though life feels really messy most of the time, I am willing to keep fighting for my heart.
Breaking my silence has exposed the power of shame that evil has held in my life. These women have pursued my heart with great care and kindness as I risked entering into the truth of my story. Healing and freedom has been unfolding for me in this safe community as I have wrestled with Jesus.
We all have been wounded to some degree – whether from abuse, abandonment, or loss. When we remain silent and push the pain deep inside, it is impossible to live out of our whole heart. As I speak about the truth and feel the pain in my story, my heart is becoming more available to God, others, and myself. I have found my voice again, and even though life feels really messy most of the time, I am willing to keep fighting for my heart.
The abundant life Jesus offers is a “both/and.” When we grieve the broken areas of our lives, we can hold in one hand pain and in the other goodness.
I share my story with the hopes you will hear this: When we ask Jesus into our lives, it doesn’t mean He makes our pain and struggles disappear. Jesus doesn’t force Himself into the rooms in our heart we keep locked. He is a gentleman; He patiently waits until we invite Him into our deepest pain. My prayer and hope is that you would risk finding a few safe people and begin speaking honestly about places where you have experienced harm, failure, disappointment, loss… and places of goodness, joy, excitement, success. Jesus is walking with us in all of it!