Fore Is Short for Forgiveness


My son almost killed a friend of mine the other day. It's not something we talk about a lot around town. In fact, only a handful of people know about it.

Until now.

The first tee box beckons us with promises of hope and the opportunity to start again. It's something my son and I have been thinking about the past few days.

We were standing on the first hole of our little course with grand visions of the round ahead. Jeffrey had a new driver with a head like a waffle iron. Carefully placing a brand-new ball on a brand-new tee, he stood back, took a few perfect practice swings, and then smacked his first shot. Hard.

To say he hooked the shot is like saying the Sahara Desert has sand in it.

My friend Lyndon Earl had been enjoying his round until then. He was standing on the second green less than a hundred yards away, lining up a long putt and thinking pleasant thoughts, when he heard two guys yelling "Fore!" At roughly the same decibel level as a teenager's stereo.

Unfortunately, he barely had time to blink before the ball struck him hard on the thigh. Lyndon thought he was dead. I thought he was dead. Running toward him as fast as we can run in golf shoes, both Jeffrey and I were wondering if we should call an ambulance or a hearse.

Thank God, Lyndon was okay.

Later that day, Jeffrey and I showed up at his house with a card and a gift. Lyndon limped to the door and smiled at us as we stood there apologizing for the eleventeenth time.

"No problem," said Lyndon. "I'm a welder. I'm used to incoming objects."

He was kind enough to show us the bruise, of course. The size of a small beach ball, it was not pretty. In fact, it looked like a giant discolored prune. With dimples. Surprisingly, its owner offered us a bigger gift than we could ever offer him: the gift of forgiveness.

I talked with a former Buddhist once, asking him what he saw in Christ that he never saw in Buddha. He didn't even pause to think about it. "Forgiveness for my sin," he said.

Recently, I watched another story of forgiveness unfold during the prestigious British Open. Though Ian Woosnam was ranked number one in 1991, travels in his own jet, and has a putting green at his home, he had been on a downhill slide according to the media. But here he was atop the leader board, tied on the last day of the tournament with four other golfers. At only five feet, four inches tall, Woosnam was poised to stand tall on the winner's podium.

After nearly acing a hole, he found himself leading the final round. Bending over to tee his ball up, he turned to caddie Miles Byrne for a club.

Instead, he got the shock of his golfing life. "You're going to go ballistic," Byrne told him.

"Why?" Asked Woosnam.

"We've got two drivers in the bag."

Woosnam knew immediately what it meant. He had 13 other clubs. With two drivers, that made 15. Only 14 are allowed. Woosnam had to call a two-stroke penalty on him-self. A penalty that would knock him out of the lead.

"At that moment, I felt like I had been kicked in the teeth," Woosnam later said.

When the day was over, he had fallen four strokes short of the winning score posted by David Duvall and was left wondering what might have been had one of the worst gaffs in major championship history had not occurred.

But the response of the two men is the real story. What would you expect from the caddy? Some finger-pointing at least. A list of excuses for sure. Surely Miles Byrne could find someone or something to blame for his mistake. Instead Byrne said, "You want me to stand here and make excuses? There is no excuse. The buck stops at me. My fault, two-shot penalty, end of story." How unusual to read a story in the papers of someone accepting responsibility for his actions.

And what about Woosnam? How loudly would the Welshman yell when he fired Byrne, the caddy who may have cost him his last chance at a major championship? Surely no one on earth would blame him.

The Irish Examiner printed his response: "With a superhuman show of forgiveness Woosnam did not murder Byrne." "It's the biggest mistake he will make in his life," said Woosnam. "He won't do it again. He's a good caddie. He will have a severe talking to when I get in, but I'm not going to sack him."

As the two walked together down the fairway to the eighteenth green, the crowd rose to its feet, giving them a standing ovation. Failure and remorse. Repentance and forgiveness. I think I've read that story somewhere before.

"If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins." Matthew 6:14-15

Phil Callaway, Golfing with the Master. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2006, p. 34-37

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