As you know if you read my articles regularly, I often find stories about sports or athletes that relate to elements of our Christian walk. I’m a huge sports fan, so these stories just seem to stick out to me.
This week, the U.S. Open golf tournament is set to be played at Erin Hills Golf Course in Erin, WI. Actually as I type these words, the tournament is already under way. The U.S. Open, for those of you not familiar with golf, is one of the four annual tournaments that are classified as “Majors”. These are the toughest tournaments of the year, with usually the toughest golf course set ups that truly test the skills of professional golfers that are good enough to earn their way in to them.
Majors have the most prize money and the most prestige for those that are fortunate enough to win them. To win a major tournament is to set yourself apart from the rest of the golfing world. That’s why the story that broke officially this morning is so special. Phil Mickelson, otherwise known as “Lefty” because he plays left-handed, has won multiple majors over his 25-year professional career. He’s won three of the four majors at least once. But he’s never won the U.S. Open. He’s come close, earning second place six times, but he’s never been able to win it.
He’s been playing professional golf for 25 years, which means that he is getting close to the end of his competitive prime, and will not necessarily have too many more chances to win this elusive tournament. Yet, Phil officially withdrew from the tournament this morning before play started. Why? It wasn’t an injury. It was so that he could attend his daughter’s high school graduation in San Diego, CA. He waited until the last minute to withdraw, because there was a chance he could make it to his tee time if there was a weather delay, but once it was clear that there would be no delay, he withdrew.
Phil chose family over the chance to finally win the U.S. Open, not knowing how many more chances he will have at this tournament going forward. And I applaud him for that! I think it is incredible that he would make this choice. He had been talking about this for a couple of months, so it’s not necessarily a huge surprise. But then again, in the culture that we live in today, it’s refreshing to see someone choose his family over potential prestige and money.
Our society glamorizes work and “providing” for our family so much that it tells us that we should do anything and everything to get further ahead, for our family, even if that means taking valuable time away from our family. Or, society tells us that we need to take care of ourselves and then our family comes second, only after we have done what we need to do to get to the top.
We even find this in those in ministry sometimes. There is so much pressure to make sure you are taking care of the people of your church, visiting hospitals, showing up at every event, being on call 24/7 because you are doing what you have been called to do, that often the family suffers. I get it. We all should strive to make God first in our lives above anything else. Doing ministry is often equated to putting God first. But doing ministry as our job is not the same thing as keeping God first in our lives. Whether we are in vocational ministry or not, as Christ followers there needs to be a certain order of priorities in our lives. Something like this; God first, family second, career third.
That is what is so refreshing about Phil this week. Sure, most people that have commented on the story as it broke officially this morning are commending him for it. But honestly, there were some that were saying he made the wrong decision. I don’t know if Phil is a Christ follower. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him discuss his faith. So, I don’t know if he puts God first in his life. But he at least gets the family and career stuff in the right order.
We can learn a lot from Phil this week. Keep God first, absolutely. But after that, your family should come way before striving to grow in your career. Priorities matter. He will probably get another chance at the U.S. Open. He wouldn’t have gotten another chance to see and celebrate his daughter’s graduation. Props Phil! Well done.