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"I jump into a sand pit for a living"

Jonathan Edwards, World record triple-jumper

Ryder Cup 2010

Private faith and the Ryder Cup

So the American team will be keeping their faith private in the Ryder Cup which starts today, according to Matt Dickinson's article "Beliefs being kept under wraps

I am not quite sure what keeping one’s beliefs under wraps actually looks like. Presumably the American players won’t now be handing out tracts on the first tee or lifting up their sweaters when the hole a putt to reveal a religious slogan! For the Christian, following Jesus, is a life time commitment 24/7. It affects the way the believer lives, works, relates to people and plays golf. I do not believe for one moment that the Christians in the Ryder Cup will be keeping their faith hidden. It is a case of a Christian being a professional golfer, not the other way round! The idea that faith has no place in sport just does not hold water The quote in Dickinson’s article by Stewart Cink, the 2009 Open Champion reveals the heart of the matter. “Winning tournaments or playing the Ryder Cup are great but only last a week — in Jesus I have something that will last forever.” The Christian Ryder Cup player will be no less competitive but perhaps sees the spiritual perspective. The Ryder Cup is over on Sunday while one’s relationship with Jesus lasts literally forever.

Bernhard Langer showed this perspective when commenting after missing the putt in the 1991 Ryder Cup which would have won the Trophy for Europe, “Looking at the Ryder Cup from a Christian point of view, there has only ever been one perfect man, the Lord Jesus, and we killed him. I only missed a putt.”

There is a weekly Bible Study on the US tour – and also on the US Seniors, LPGA, European Tour and European Seniors tour as it happens.

This is not just players being pious. It is players doing church. If you are a successful professional golfer you will be playing a tournament on Sunday and will struggle to get to church. So various Christians groups have taken church to the tour. The Bible Study on the European tour was started in 1989 at St Pierre, Chepstow – close to Celtic Manor – by Bernhard Langer and Rev Bruce Gillingham, simply to meet the spiritual needs of the players.

One at least two occasions a Sunday morning service has taken place at the Ryder Cup for players and spectators. The first of these was in 1989. When Rev Bruce Gillingham asked Bernard Langer if he would like to attend a service on the Sunday morning of the Ryder Cup, Langer replied that it would be better to bring the church service to the golf course! This duly happened with the service taking place between the 9th and 18th greens at the Belfry, with players from both teams attending.

Samuel Ryder, the seed merchant, after whom the competition was named, would, as a committed Christian, have approved. He was also Sunday School teacher. In fact the Ryder Cup is not the first golf trophy Ryder sponsored. In 1902, 25 years before the Ryder Cup, Sam Ryder commissioned “The Ryder Trophy” and presented it to the Free Church Ministers Golf Society.

The trophy is still contested; this year it is being organised by the Welsh Christian Golf Society and took place on the 28th and 29th September 2010 at Dewstow Golf Club.

Matt Dickinson ends his article saying: “Will one of the Americans thank God for a US victory? Is the Pope a Catholic?” I have no doubt that will players will (and should) thank God for the opportunity to participate in the Ryder Cup – whether they win or lose.

Stuart Weir is the director of Verite Sport

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