Broadcaster Pat Summerall shares faith at Masters breakfast

For most of his career, Pat Summerall sat behind an anchor desk, talking sports, trading laughs and chatting with fellow broadcasters.

This morning’s Masters Prayer Breakfast wasn’t much different.

About 2,000 watched as the legendary broadcaster joined the Rev. David McKinley on stage at Warren Baptist Church.

“Am I in Madden’s seat?” the Rev. McKinley asked in a nod to John Madden, who for two decades called NFL games shoulder-to-shoulder with Mr. Summerall.

“You’re perfect,” Mr. Summerall replied.

“It’s a little intimidating, I’ll tell you,” the Rev. McKinley said.

Mr. Summerall laughed. “John Madden was a little intimidating, too.”

The banter initially centered on golf but, like Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson before him, Mr. Summerall used the prayer breakfast, an annual program of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, to share the story of his faith and how it had transformed his life.

Mr. Summerall was born with a “bum leg” into a poor, broken family. Thankfully, he said, his parents found a doctor willing to try an experimental surgery to correct his club foot. That surgery led to Mr. Summerall enjoying a successful professional football career in the NFL before he took up broadcasting.

“Obviously things turned out very well,” he said.

Mr. Summerall also shared memories of Augusta, including one moment after the 1992 Masters Tournament, when fellow sportscasters confronted him about his long-standing, excessive drinking.

“They thought I needed help, and they were right,” he said.

Mr. Sumerall checked into the Betty Ford Clinic, where he began to read the Bible.

“I found answers,” he said.

Mr. Summerall, 69 at the time, was baptized.

His health, however, continued to deteriorate.

“I started to lose weight. I started to feel fatigued,” he said. “I realized what was happening.”

A liver transplant in 2004 saved his life.

The organ had been given by the family of a 13-year-old boy who had collapsed and died in gym class.

“I thought at the time, I used up my life. Someone had to die for me to live. That didn’t seem fair,” Mr. Summerall said.

The Rev. McKinley drew on the spiritual parallel.

“In much the same way that is the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.

They prayed, and Mr. Summerall offered his fans a parting bit of encouragement before one of many standing ovations:

“The reason all of us are here today is because God is not through with us yet,” he said. “Take some time if you haven’t done it to count your blessings and realize what Christ has done for you.”

Reach Kelly Jasper at (706) 823-3552

or kelly.jasper@augustachronicle.com.

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