David Lauderdale

Lauderdale: PGA Tour players open up at Christian Heritage Breakfast

Ben Crane poses with his trophy and patients of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital after winning the St. Jude Classic golf tournament Sunday, June 8, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. Crane won the tournament with a score of 10-under 270.
Ben Crane poses with his trophy and patients of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital after winning the St. Jude Classic golf tournament Sunday, June 8, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. Crane won the tournament with a score of 10-under 270. AP Photo

PGA Tour golfers rarely show what’s swirling inside as they methodically grind their way around the Harbour Town Golf Links.

But during the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, a Wednesday morning tradition enables one golfer to share his innermost hopes, dreams, and disappointments.

It happens at the Christian Heritage Breakfast, which will be held for the 20th time this week at the Sonesta Hilton Head Resort.

Five-time tour winner Ben Crane will be the speaker, and more than 200 local high school athletes are expected to be in the full ballroom.

This will be the first event without its founder, John Scott, who died at 95 last July. An award in his name will be presented at the breakfast to a high school senior from the 14 schools in Beaufort, Hampton and Jasper counties with a strong presence of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Scott got it started with tour caddie Andy Martinez. Scott called the locker room at Augusta National hoping to reach Christian golfer Tom Lehman. His caddie responded, and agreed to speak to about 50 people gathered for one of the regular breakfasts held by an organization then called Presbyterian Men of the Church. Lehman spoke the next year, and the event grew, and is now co-hosted by FCA.

My favorite speaker was Bernhard Langer. He’s a favorite here, having won the Heritage the week after his first win at the Masters in 1985.

I recall seeing Sea Pines and Heritage founder Charles Fraser hugging Langer years later, thanking him for coming to Hilton Head after the Masters that year.

Langer talked being the son of a German bricklayer who grew up attending church almost every day. He told how he maneuvered all the yips and dips of scrambling to the top of his world with the win in Augusta.

Oddly, it was at the top that he found emptiness.

He had big money, fast cars, a beautiful wife, two homes — and a green jacket.

The next week on Hilton Head, he finally accepted an invitation from Bobby Clampett to attend the weekly Bible study that goes on behind the scenes on the tour.

The topic that night was John 3:3, and it opened Langer’s eyes just as it did a church leader named Nicodemus many years ago. It has Jesus telling Nicodemus that he must be born again to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Langer said he learned here that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship. He said it is not earned by good deeds or personal effort, but by grace.

Later, Langer would say that the longer view of eternity helped him cope with a painful missed putt in the Lowcountry, this one at the Ryder Cup on Kiawah Island.

Langer says he takes Bible verses with him on the course.

That’s something fans might never guess is swirling inside the steely golfers as they methodically grind their way around the Harbour Town Golf Links.

David Lauderdale: 843-706-8115, @ThatsLauderdale

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