Just after the sun rose Sunday over the 18th green at Harbour Town Golf Links, Australian-American golfer Aaron Baddeley gazed at the glistening water of Calibogue Sound and was flooded by memories.
It was on that green on an Easter Sunday that Baddeley sunk a putt to secure his spot as the winner of the 2006 Verizon Heritage Classic, his first U.S. tour event. It was also a day after he and his wife, Richelle, celebrated their first wedding anniversary.
More importantly, it's a day that reminds him of the redemption that comes with faith.
"We have to believe the plan God has for us is good and we need to trust in him in that. The past couple of years, I was really tested in this area," Baddeley said, addressing a crowd of close to 1,000 that filled the bleachers and spilled onto the course during Sunday's Easter sunrise worship service by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Baddeley changed coaches at the beginning of 2009, choosing to go back to his first coach he grew up with to help him rebuild his game.
"I felt I was being as diligent as I could be to improve, but the scores on the board never showed signs of the work I was putting in and the improvement I felt I was making," he told the crowd. "I kept feeling like I was taking one, two steps forward and two, three steps backward. It was a frustrating time. During those times I'd pray and ask the Lord, 'Lord, is this where you want me to be? Am I working on the path that you had planned for me?' And every time I asked that question, I get an answer of 'yes.'<2009>"
Baddeley, a Christian, said it was his faith that prevented him from giving up professional golf on numerous occasions.
"The public saw my world ranking went from No. 16 to No. 260," he said. "On the outside, it looked like I was going in the wrong direction, but on the inside I knew I was in the right direction. ... (Now), I'm having one of the best years of my career."
Baddeley is ranked eighth for the PGA Tour's FedExCup, according to onlisults.
"I don't know that it's going to be smooth sailing from here, but I do know that God ... is going to lead me into the path and the direction that he wants for me. And I know I can trust him," he said. "This brings me to the greatest plan of all, today -- Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday. Today is the pinnacle of God's redemption plan for mankind. ... It's through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus that (God) offers us continual grace and forgiveness when the world around us condemns us and judges us. He is the only one who can provide us with peace when the world around us doesn't make sense. ... That's what Easter is all about. It's the ultimate story of hope."
Baddeley was not the only PGA Tour golfer to participate in the service. Kevin Streelman sang and played guitar alongside his wife. Scott Stallings led a response to a reading.
"Today, they're going to be performing on the golf course. This morning, they come to worship with you, as one of you," said Jose Alvarez, who led the service. "Because, like many of you, (they) know the risen savior."
Sea Pines resident Cathy Havens, 68, said she was touched by Baddeley's message and participation in the service.
"I think it speaks volumes to the fact he has a lot of other things on his mind today, but this is so important to him that he had to come out and give the message to people," Havens said. "And it was a wonderful, beautiful, majestic place to give a message. You look out and you see a dolphin and you think: God is good."