Originally created 04/13/02

Chaplains minister to golf pros



Hanging out at PGA tournaments 20 or 30 times a year is just part of the job for Larry Moody and Tim "Rocky" Kilmer.

In Augusta this week for the Masters Tournament, both men say they found their calling among pro golfers.

The Rev. Moody, founder of an evangelistic outreach in Baltimore called Search Ministries, had a knack for relating to the players, as did Mr. Kilmer, director of development for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Golf Ministry in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Both Search and FCA Golf help organize players' weekly Bible studies and offer counsel, encouragement and moral support - on the course and off - by letting players know they are there for them.

Mr. Kilmer visits 25 to 28 matches a year. He calls it "a ministry of presence."

And the best time to visit with players is Tuesdays and Wednesdays before the cut takes its toll and when they have more free time.

Though the Rev. Moody will stay through the Masters conclusion Sunday, he's usually home weekends. "He keeps a low profile," said son Joshua Moody, who works with his father in Baltimore.

Besides, there were still children in the Moody home until two years ago. "I can't tell these guys how to work with their families and then not work with mine," said the Rev. Moody, chairman of the board of regents at his alma mater, Dallas Theological Seminary. He was ordained in 1974.

Players' Bible studies are also a priority for him. They fall early in the week "at a point when these guys can focus on the Lord," he said. "It is great preparation for the game."

Golf is a very individual sport - players can take wins and losses personally, said Mr. Kilmer, who coached football and wrestling for a year before going full time with FCA about 28 years ago. "If you do well, there's no one else to pat on the back. If you do poorly, there is no one else to blame."

The challenge always before him and others in ministry is to remind players "golf is a living, but not their life," he said.

The son of a retired Quaker minister, Mr. Kilmer is the only nonordained member among the four men with FCA Golf. "One minister in the family is enough," he said.

In 1977, when FCA agreed to lend its name - but little else - to a fledging outreach to golfers, higher-ups weren't even sure the game was really a sport.

"But today the most recognized athlete in the world is a golfer," said Mr. Kilmer. "And the hardest ticket to get in sports is a ticket to a golf tournament."

While they minister on various pro tour circuits, FCA Golf focuses on youth and organizing about 20 camps each year for junior golfers.

"Our staff serves in the same capacity on the Buy.com tours that Larry Moody does on the PGA," he said.

A few years after FCA established the golf outreach, Mr. Kilmer got the idea for Breakfast With The Pros, where fans meet their favorite players and hear stories from the tour and the pros' Christian testimony.

About 25 breakfasts are held annually in the United States, such as Tuesday's event at Warren Baptist Church with pro Stewart Cink which drew about 650 people.

When a tournament comes to town, it captures the attention of an entire community, making it an ideal opportunity for outreach, he said. As the game's grown, "opportunities for Christian witness have grown along with it."

While Mr. Kilmer says his golf game is "nonexistent," the Rev. Moody has played in a few pro-ams.

"He started out as a pretty good hacker. After 20 years of hanging out with these guys, he's gotten better," said Joshua Moody. "But he's not out there for the golf. He's out there for the guys."

For more information, visit the Web address at www.fcagolf.org or Search Ministries at www.searchmin.org.

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.