Golfer uses game as faith platform

  • Follow Your Faith

Phil Mickelson won his third Masters Tournament on April 11, 2010. That day, Mark and Amy Wilson watched Mickelson drain his birdie putt on the 18th hole from the delivery room of a hospital in Elmhurst, Ill. Minutes later, Amy gave birth to their second son.

Mark Wilson lines up a putt on the second hole in the opening round of last year's Masters Tournament.   MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
Mark Wilson lines up a putt on the second hole in the opening round of last year's Masters Tournament.

Mark Wilson barely missed qualifying for the 2010 Masters Tournament by coming up a few strokes short in the September 2009 BMW Championship, which would have qualified him for the Tour Championship and brought an invitation to play the 2010 Masters.

Wilson yearned to be playing in the Masters that year but, he told me, “I kind of thought in the back of my mind that God didn’t want me in the Masters that year. My mind wouldn’t have been there. It would have been with Amy. It just wouldn’t have been right. I will say that God works in mysterious ways.”

Wilson qualified for last year’s tournament, and his family came along.

“Playing in my first Masters last year was just so much more magical than being there by myself like I would have been in 2010, because I would have missed my wife and the birth of our son. Last year, I had my family with me, and we incorporated my second son’s birthday into our family’s Masters Week. It was a great week for us.”

The Par 3 contest on Wednesday is a delightful tradition of the Masters Tournament. “I love that Par 3 course. I plan to play, and our kids will definitely be a part of it,” he said. “ A friend of ours is making the caddie bibs for our two boys.”

Even though he missed the cut in his Masters debut, the Augusta National Golf Club is one of his favorite courses.

“Alister MacKenzie designed the National using the topography the way God laid it out, and his courses are among my favorite to play,” he said. “Moreover, the National put some extra love in that grass. I don’t know how they do it, but I’ve never seen grass manicured the way it is at Augusta National.”

Wilson’s dad began teaching him the game when he was 2 years old. He won the Wisconsin high school championship at age 14. At the University of North Carolina, he won the Ben Hogan Award, the college golf equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. He currently ranks fourth in FedEx Cup points and is 26th in the World Golf Ranking. He has many memorable moments.

“About those moments,” Wilson said, “I can usually look back to a low point not very far from a notable achievement that really shaped me into having those memorable moments. That’s what makes those high moments so meaningful.”

It would certainly be a memorable moment for Wilson to put on the green jacket next Sunday, but he keeps golf in perspective.

“In this game, you can get greedy. If you win one tournament, you want to win another one, or you want to make the Ryder Cup team or get into a major like the Masters. There is always the next goal to be had. The media keeps telling you that, but those are not my goals. Those are the ones they are infusing into me.

‘‘My goal is for the light of Christ to shine through me into other people through this game of golf, of which the Lord has given me the talent to play and play well. Golf is the platform from which I am able to glorify God.”

THE REV. DAN WHITE IS PASTOR OF NORTH COLUMBIA CHURCH IN APPLING.

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