“Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33
I often title my posts with an acronym where every letter stands for a word, such as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get), or even YOYO (You’re On Your Own). Not this time: FLOG is actually GOLF spelled backwards. It’s an irony, because golf can be such a challenging and frustrating game. 80% of golfers have a handicap of 18 or above. Only 5% have a handicap under 10.
For those who are not familiar with golf, a handicap is a number assigned based on your average scores on an 18-hole golf course. You take the number assigned and subtract it from your actual score, and it is supposed to be your “par” – i.e. a score adjusted for your level.
A typical 18-hole course has a par of 72, so if a person has a handicap of 18, his reassigned “par” is a score of 90 based on his handicap. I’ll let you do the math.
The handicap system is a convenient way to adjust scores so that people playing at different levels have a way of being competitive by using their handicap. It permits a good golfer play with a non-so-good golfer.
My introduction to the sport of golf was almost by accident. Having attended a boarding school in New England, I returned home for the summer my first year to find that all my friends from grade school were on vacation for the summer. My mother suggested that I consider learning to play golf. We were fortunate to belong to a Country Club in Ridgewood, New Jersey.
That was when I met George Jacobus. George was the head professional at Ridgewood, but he was much more than that as I would come to learn later. He had been president of the PGA – the umbrella organization of golf professionals in America from 1930 to 1939.
He taught many professional golfers and amateurs alike. He was an encourager of youth to learn the game because he knew they would be the future. George kindly took me and many others under his wing and gave us unlimited instruction without charge.
He was always available, even if we weren’t home. He had a memory of your swing, and if you could describe what was going on, he would quickly suggest a “fix” that always worked. His knowledge of the golf swing was magical.
As we improved, he asked that we “give back” by helping him teach clinics for others. By the time I was 17, I had a 1 handicap, and often spent Saturday mornings helping him with his golf clinics for other youth and adults.
But George taught me more than golf. He taught me about life, too. He was my first mentor, a term I didn’t identify him with until recently. George was “classy” in his appearance. Even on the hottest days, he would teach wearing a long-sleeved white shirt, a tie, and a white linen jacket with a Panama hat. He usually looked like he was modeling sports clothes.
George was a disciplinarian, too. Even though golf could be frustrating, he taught us that we were to be “a gentleman first, and a golfer second.” You were not to alter that order or priority. In other words, your behavior on the course was never to change, even if you were playing poorly. No throwing of clubs, no cursing or getting angry. It was not permitted. Period. Violations had consequences.
A gentleman, by definition, is one who is courteous and polite. In modern parlance, the term gentleman refers to any man of good, courteous conduct. In other words, a man of good character.
I have no idea whether George Jacobus was a believer, but his values were consistent and Godly. George died in 1965, and it was many years later that I learned how special he had been, not just in my life, but in the lives of others.
A few years ago, I watched a documentary on Byron Nelson entitled “Byron Nelson: A Texas Gentleman” on television and learned for the first time the details of George’s influence. Byron Nelson was hired by George as an assistant pro at Ridgewood Country Club in 1935. George changed Byron’s swing, and he went on to win 18 tournaments in 1945, including 11 pro events in a row, a record that stands today.
As you can tell from the title of the documentary, Byron Nelson was known as a “gentleman” throughout his career, first as a professional golfer, and later as a golf analyst on television. In the documentary, Arnold Palmer called Byron not just a great golfer, but a great person.
George’s message was the same to Byron as it was to all who he taught. In life, your character matters. It is a lesson I carry with me today, from my first mentor.
Our challenge is to pass on to the next generation values that matter and are consistent with Jesus, who was a gentleman in every way. Character does matter, and the next generation is watching you to see if your words match your actions. May you live so that a biography of you includes the word “gentleman” or “gentlewoman” in its title.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Authenticity is what the millennials are looking for in a mentor. They want you to exhibit your values, not just talk about them. Being a gentleman is a great start.
FURTHER STUDY: You can read a biography of George Jacobus including his involvement with Byron Nelson:
Watch a 71-minute video on “Byron Nelson: A Texas Gentleman” on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wAm247d1vY
WORSHIP: Join Travis Cottrell who reminds us that we are a “Friend of God”
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