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Sports writer Chad Bonham has made a career out of sharing inspiring Christian athlete’s stories. Beyond Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin, Bonham spotlights the testimonies of professionals and little known athletes in a range of sports. He highlighted in swimming, tennis, diving, hockey and women's basketball in his Fellowship of Christian Athletes Core Values book series. Olympic athletes are the focus of his newest book Glory of the Games.
In Life on the Fairway, Bonham explains the game of golf and the champions who exemplify Godly integrity on and off the course. Bonham shared with CP Blog on the eve of the 2013 PGA Championship why golf is unlike any other sport and how integrity opens us up to God’s blessings.
CP Blog: Why did you pick golf for this book and what makes that game so much different from other sports?
Bonham: I was meeting with New Leaf about several ideas when the publisher, Tim Dudley, made an out-of-the-blue comment about how there hadn’t been a good book about golf in the Christian market recently. He then asked me if I had any ideas for one. I thought about it for a moment and the first thing that popped into my head was the word “integrity.” By the time I left the New Leaf offices, we had agreed on the basic concept for a book about golf and the biblical concept of integrity.
Golf is different from other sports because integrity is actually built into the game through the rules and through the respect that golfers inherently have for the game. Other sports like baseball, football and basketball actually encourage, at least behind the scenes, varying levels of cheating. As much as I love baseball, for instance, you’ve got a sport where activities like stealing signs and trapping fly balls routinely take place. But with golf, the rules are written in a way that discourages any unethical behavior on the course.
CP Blog: Of all the themes in golf – consistency, precision, gentlemanly conduct – why did you choose to focus your book Life in the Fairway on integrity?
Bonham: Without integrity, the game of golf falls apart, and that truth provides a fantastic metaphor for life. Without integrity in our personal lives, everything eventually falls apart. You can’t last long when you’re living a lie or perpetuating a false existence.
CP Blog: Why is integrity so important for one’s daily walk with Christ?
Bonham: First of all, it’s because we serve a holy God and we are commanded to live like Christ. He was the greatest example of integrity to walk the face of the Earth, and we should strive to also live with a high level of integrity, by the power of the Holy Spirit, of course.
Secondly, living a life of integrity opens us up to God’s blessings. Proverbs contains a lot of wisdom about how integrity and moral character paves the road to success whereas corruption and immorality ultimately leads to destruction.
And finally, integrity has a lot to do with the kind of influence we may or may not have over those around us. When you have integrity, people will listen to what you have to say. When you lack integrity, people won’t take you very seriously—especially when you’re trying to talk to them about your relationship with Christ. Nothing says “hypocrisy” more than a Christian who doesn’t live out what he or she preaches.
CP Blog: You feature a number of great amateur and professional golfers such as Webb Simpson, Steward Cink and Aaron Baddeley in this book. Whose story of integrity impressed you the most?
Bonham: It’s tough to say which one impressed me the most because they all had some great stories to share. But one that comes to mind is Jonathan Byrd’s story from the 2005 Reno-Tahoe Open. It was a bizarre situation where he lost his balance while trying to quickly tap in a putt and whiffed at the ball. He regained his composure and tapped the ball in. At the time, he didn’t think an infraction at occurred, but later that night in his hotel room, he became restless and questioned his actions. The next day, he still felt like it was 50-50, but there was enough doubt to where he went to an official and withdrew from the tournament. That decision cost him thousands of dollars, but he was at least able to sleep peacefully that night.
There are many examples like that in the book and really there are many more examples that happen at every tournament. But the difference is that guys like Jonathan, Webb, Stewart and Aaron are actively pursuing integrity on the course not just because the game dictates they do so. It’s because they want to please God and set a Christ-like example for anyone watching.
CP Blog: Looking at recent PGA news, where and in whom do you see shining examples of integrity?
Bonham: Obviously the guys featured in the book are some incredible examples of integrity. There are other golfers like Tom Lehman, Zach Johnson and Davis Love III that are doing their best to model biblical integrity. I cover a lot of other sports, so I point towards athletes like Tim Tebow, Drew Brees, Jeremy Lin, Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols as great examples for young athletes and sports fans.
CP Blog: Who will you be watching heading into the PGA Championship and why?
Bonham: I always root for the guys that I’ve been privileged to interview and get to know like those featured in the book. I’ve especially enjoyed following Webb Simpson’s career and Aaron Baddeley was one of the first golfers I was able to meet and interview. As far as favorites, I’d have to say Bubba Watson is towards the top of the list. I’ve also always been a big Phil Mickelson fan because he’s a class act and (like myself, at least in golf) he’s a lefty. And I think it would be cool to see Hunter Mahan do well after he dropped out of the Canadian Open to be with his wife for the birth of his child even though he was leading the tournament at the time.
Thank You to everyone who entered the Life in the Fairway Giveaway courtesy of the Christian Post and New Leaf Press. The entrance period has closed.
Congratulations to giveaway winner Marguerite Harrell of Bailey, NC. She will win a copy of Chad Bonham's Life in the Fairway courtesy of New Leaf Press and the CP Blog page.