Scottie Scheffler Wikipedia

Editorial: Scheffler’s faith par for course

  • April 26, 2024

As duffers and pro prospects alike tune their golf games for another season of lightning strike joy and thunder cloud frustration, the world’s number one player models three words of sage advice: Say your prayers.

Scottie Scheffler, who won the RBC Heritage championship in South Carolina this week only seven days after winning the Masters for a second time, isn’t just tossing off the kind of junk golf tips that clog the Internet. A confirmed Catholic, he actually lives the counsel he demonstrates rather than just spouting from his lips. 

“I’m a faithful guy. I believe in a Creator. I believe in Jesus. I feel like I’ve been given a platform to compete and show my talent. It’s not anything that I did,” he says.

After winning his second coveted green jacket at Augusta National in two years, he added this: “I believe today's plans were already laid out many years ago, and I could do nothing to mess up those plans. I have been given a gift of this talent, and I use it for God's glory. That's pretty much it."

Pretty much it, in Scheffler’s case, isn’t just aw-shucks sports speak to cover up an overheated ego. He is, after all, a husband who laid careful plans to chuck one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the world if necessary to be at his wife’s side should she go into labour while he was trying to make a putt. No wonder. His wife, Meredith, told him before the Masters: “If you never win another golf tournament, I’m still going to love you. Jesus loves you. Nothing changes that.”

Scheffler’s take-away: “Golf is something I do. It’s a tremendously huge part of my life, but it doesn’t define me as a person.”

In a sport where God is routinely called on to damn the blasted 1.62 ounce ball that’s headed for a water hazard or sand trap, – or even the whole maddening game invented by grim, sadistic Scots – Scheffler’s “person” is called to faith, prayer and Scripture. His fellow competitors, not always noted for their spiritual perspicacity or prudence, are beginning to make the connection between the Master and mastery of the infinitely difficult good walk spoiled.

It's a link hard for even the myopic personalities essential to professional sport to miss. Since 2022, Scheffler has been the number one professional player in the world for a staggering 84 weeks. He has won 10 times in PGA tournaments, three times on the European tour since turning pro in 2018. This is not professional wrestling where the “championship belt” gets passed around every week. It’s a record resulting from grinding, gruelling execution of physical, psychological, emotional, and elemental control. It’s a performance streak that has him already vying with the greats of the game. He’s the only player since Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus to win the Masters and the Players Championship in a single year.  

After winning Rookie of the Year honours in 2020, Scheffler has become noted for the strength of his “mental game,” a phrase that invariably evokes a definite mystical quality in golf. Now even other pro golfers acknowledge that perhaps it’s not just something mental, or even “spiritual,” but true faith in God that is the source of his winning swing.

Golf great Jordan Spieth, also a Christian believer, has noted that Scheffler’s capacity to give good and bad up to God, on and off the golf course, is unquestionably a major factor in his ability to live the acceptance that golf and faith both demand. That’s a speculation being borne out by secular research.

A recently reported study from Harvard and the Gallup polling company of 200,000 people worldwide found that those whose religious faith is expressed in weekly church or temple attendance had higher “flourishing” scores than the non-devout. On the other side, a survey of 240,000 people in 65 countries correlated low levels of mental well-being with low levels of religious practice.

As a golfer, of course, Scheffler flourishes by shooting low scores but the principle still applies. When faith – and prayer – become par for the course, life’s ups and downs, highs and lows are kept in perspective by knowing God is what truly matters.

He modeled exactly that this week with his fourth win in five PGA tournaments when asked how he was going to celebrate: “I’m going to get a breakfast burrito, a coffee, and go home.”

Let us pray. 

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