It was once thought that shorter men made the best golfers. But that turned out to be a myth, facilitated only by the fact that the best players at the time were under 5-foot-11.
Stewart Cink is 6-foot-4, 205 lbs.—impressive stature compared to those tour champions of the past, and tall enough to set him above the tour leaders of the moment as well, but only by an inch or two. But those who know Stewart Cink wouldn’t likely reference his measurements as what separates him from the crowd. Because more impressive than his physical presence is his spiritual stature, which is created by the manifestation of the Holy Spirit inside him.
Everyone knows that the demands placed on a professional athlete are many; and it is no different for those on the PGA Tour. Golfers are cast into a lifestyle of ruthless press junkets and suffocating pressure to perform. It doesn’t help that they have to endure much of it while away from those they love most, spending 30 weeks each year on the road.
|Stewart Cink in His Own Words|
“St. Andrews in Scotland. Because of the layout and the crazy weather, there have never been two shots at St. Andrews that are the same. People either love it or hate it. It’s the first course ever made, and the best course ever designed.”
How he prepares for a tournament:
“I don’t spend hours and hours on the range or play golf every single day. The first two days of an off-week, I don’t do anything. The last five days, I play three rounds. I’ve realized that you aren’t going to change your stroke in one day, so I just play to the peak of my confidence and stop.”
“I am not very quirky. Some guys wear the same socks or keep a certain number of tees in their pockets. I’m not superstitious like that. But a few years ago, I did a workout with my trainer thinking that the tournament was going to rain out. I never did a workout before I played—I’d always been afraid of that. That day it quit raining, and I played awesome! Since that day, I always work out before the rounds. I was one of the first players to do that. But now it’s caught on, and you can’t get a space in the gym in the mornings.”
“The Masters. It’s a small field and the most renowned—probably most difficult—course in the world.”
Under such conditions, it is difficult to maintain a proper perspective. But Cink is up for the challenge.
“He lives out his priorities of God, then family and then golf,” said Jim Esary, national director of the FCA Golf Ministry. “So many pros struggle with keeping things in that order, but not Stewart.”
For example, despite his manic schedule, Cink and his family are actively involved at CrossPointe Church in his hometown of Duluth, Ga. And when Cink departs from his home—as he does often during the season—he is sure to carry his faith with him.
Rewind to 2004 for a powerful example.
At the MCI Heritage Classic in South Carolina, Cink came from nine strokes down to force a playoff with Ted Purdy. On the fifth extra hole, Purdy landed a par, but Cink delivered a subsequent birdie to win the tournament. But after the champion’s ceremony, grumblings erupted that Cink may have illegally moved his golf ball on the last hole.
Though he was cleared by PGA Tournament Director Slugger White, who reviewed the footage multiple times, Cink’s character had been sufficiently questioned.
The fallout was all over television. Cink’s first PGA title in four years and the second biggest PGA Tour comeback in history had been ruined. “My career highlight turned into my career lowlight,” Cink said.
All this in a gentleman’s game where honor is everything.
As a result, Cink was faced with a difficult decision: He could accept an invitation to go on network television, give full vent to his anger and defend himself; or he could let his Christian character speak for itself. Even now, years later, Cink still speaks of the event with conflicting emotions as he relays the internal struggle over the decision—a struggle that lasted for days until he felt the Lord tap him on the shoulder.
In a moment of great revelation, Cink was reminded of Christ’s decision to remain quiet during the crucifixion even while others hurled insults and accusations at Him. Cink decided to mimic Jesus.
As a result, the naysayers relented. His name was cleared, and his opponent apologized to him at the next tournament.
“I constantly ask myself, ‘What is the right thing to do?’ and then I do that.” -Stewart Cink
“I quit looking at it as me being attacked and saw it as an opportunity,” Cink said. “It was powerful for me because it was one of the first times I let Christ steer me.”
After Christ, Cink’s family comes next. To balance the long stretches away from home, he makes sure to both guard and maximize the time he spends at home with his wife, Lisa, and two sons, Conner and Reagan.
“I could play in a corporate event every day of the week if I wanted and make lots of money,” he said. “But when I am home, I am home. I don’t like to be away even for a night.”
When he does leave home during his off-time, it is to spend time with his family, engaging in what Cink calls “forced family fun”: camping, skiing, hiking out west or vacationing at their lake house.
According to Cink, the demands of the tour put a greater strain on the marriage than the entire family, partially because the children have never known any other lifestyle. But Stewart knows that the answer to a successful marriage for a pro golfer, while not easy, is quite simple.
“I constantly ask myself, ‘What is the right thing to do?’ and then I do that,” he said.
PGA Tour Career Accomplishments*
• Turned professional in 1995
• 313 PGA Tour events played
• 4 career first-place finishes
• 73 career top-10 finishes
• 158 career top-25 finishes
• 23rd in Official World Golf Rankings (2007)
• Has been selected to play in three Presidents Cup, three Ryder Cup and three World Cup tournaments
*Stats through the 2007 season.
Cink says that, as a result, he and his wife, who were best friends in high school, have remained best friends. “I would rather hang out with her than anyone else.”
The lessons he shares haven’t come without a great period of learning. Stewart Cink has not always had perfect priorities.
Accepting Christ in the late 1990s, he still considers himself a toddler in the faith. His high school did have FCA, but back then Cink didn’t even know what the acronym stood for.
And Christian ministries weren’t the only thing about which Cink was ignorant. Even though he could beat all the Junior golfers by age 13, he never believed he had the talent to play golf professionally.
“I always thought I was pretty good,” he said, “but growing up, I was cautioned about the likelihood of being a successful golfer, so I never really thought about the tour.”
For some, even modest accomplishments can serve as wake-up calls. But until success comes in a specific way, talents and gifts can remain a mystery. Not so with Cink.
Even after winning the largest American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) tournament in the nation at age 16, a victory that put him on the map as a golfer, he remained clueless. Following the tournament, he was interviewed by the media and asked about his professional plans. A stunned Cink answered, “I think I want to go into pro-shop management.”
Not until he attended Georgia Tech University did he begin to realize his potential. It was during this time that Cink squared off against Tiger Woods six times. He beat Woods in four.
Cink’s eyes were now wide open.
The combination of a love for the Lord, commitment to family and professional success has led Cink to partner with and minister through the vehicle of FCA.
Cink, right, with FCA’s Jim Esary last year in Ireland.
Last year, he teamed up with the ministry to speak at Powerscourt Golf Club in Dublin, Ireland, prior to the British Open, in FCA Golf’s first-ever international outreach event. Additionally, Cink has played in FCA Golf’s International Pro-Am several times and has spoken at FCA Breakfast with the Pros events.
“Stewart is a very gifted golfer but also a very gifted communicator,” Esary said. “His ability to share his faith in Christ in a very relaxed, relational way is amazing.”
When asked about his experiences with FCA, Cink reverts back to his trademark modesty. “They usually ask me if I can donate time and give of myself,” he said. “But every single time I’m involved in FCA events, I feel like I am the one enriched, and at the end of the event, I am blessed.”
Appropriately enough, those at the events return the sentiment.
Clearly, this PGA Tour standout has his priorities in order. He pursues his relationship with Christ, a vibrant family life and his professional career with competitive tenacity. And the results speak for themselves. It’s classic Stewart Cink: consistently breaking par both on the fairway and in life.
*For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Photos courtesy of S. Greenwood/Getty Images, Harry How/Getty Images; Jim Esary