Cris Stevens – the LPGA Has a Chaplain!

Since Late 1970s, Cris Stevens Has Served Women’s Tours as Lay Chaplain

Such a thing had never occurred to me until I read the Golfweek article on the LPGA Tour’s chaplain.  All right, I can think of a lot of venues that have one. The American Congress, field hospitals in wartime, service clubs in most towns, etc. The LPGA has Cris Stevens. Golf? Why would golf need a chaplain?

First of all, we need to ditch our stereotypical thinking about professional golf. It’s an arduous process, with many components on the tour that can wear a person down. For us, it may a pleasant weekend thing, but for them, it’s their craft and profession. No, they are not snowflakes, not even close. Part of being on tour means separation from important people, and a temptation to let professional concerns take over one’s life always looms. Then, of course, there are those darkest of times. In Portland, Oregon, Cris Stevens  and a group of players prayed on the 18th green after the September 11th attack. The tournament was cancelled.  Now, it’s the coronavirus, a silent and ruthless enemy. I don’t know how the men’s tour is doing, and how they need to do it, but many of the players, teaching pros and other important people on the LPGA Tour are seeking connection. Many find it restorative, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Cris Stevens is the Executive Director of Global Golf, bringing her ministry as a chaplain to every venue in the women’s game. There is no question about the mission. It  is not an omni-denominational enterprise, but straightforward Christianity. However, if an individual embarked on such a mission from another religious persuasion, there would still likely be an interested crowd. In the larger LPGA fellowship, there are 11 countries represented, 460 members, and over two hundred who compete on a regular basis.

During our new normal of social distancing, the players and the chaplain have noticed an interesting phenomenon. Even though forced to be more careful than usual about proximity between humans, people Stevens barely knows wave to her, and signal a connection in body language or speech. Even without such a ministry, I have noticed the same thing on hiking trails and other brief escapes in my area. The country is making an effort to connect.

It is a peculiar time. In a crisis, what’s so important about golf, or art and music, or any of the things we call beautiful and enriching? I often feel useless, and think that what I need to do is put on the white robe and practice medicine, but that’s not possible. Right now, that’s what’s  important. But, those things we find beautiful, golf, music and art, etc., are inevitably part of the national cure. Whatever it is that inspires us is as important as ever. The elegant, gracious and physical  rewards of golf are just the thing to which we desire to return. So, a chaplain serving people who do  it for a living doesn’t seem so peculiar after all. Caddies, players and staff are taking the cue by meeting in smaller groups.

Golfweek mentions that most pro players are take-charge types. That is such a two-edged quality, capable of wonderful solutions or heavily-born frustrations. The players find the sessions with Stevens as a way to think through where personal investments should go, and in what degrees. Their golf game does not necessarily diminish in importance, but feels best when it is in its most appropriate place. The tour’s chaplain, with her mission of “one-on-one discipleship,” counseling, and consulting through a sports ministry is available for the Symetra and Legends tours, not to mention NCAA women’s golf.

One of these days, we will all meet on the course again, perhaps in a healthier state than before the virus appeared. Steven’s fellowship probably comes from a variety of backgrounds and states of faith, but members feel connected to the message.  In light of the good done by the presence of a spiritual friend for the hard times, hats off and blessings to the chaplain.

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