Rebirth of a golfing pro

Golfing icon Bernhard Langer’s love of the sport developed from age eight when he worked as a caddy to earn some money.

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona - NOVEMBER 13, 2016: Bernhard
SCOTTSDALE, Arizona - NOVEMBER 13, 2016: Bernhard Langer of Germany hits his second shot on the 8th hole during the final round of the PGA TOUR Champions Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Desert Mountain Club (Cochise). (Photo Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

Born in a little town in Germany about 48 kilometres from Munich to a World War II courier-turned-bricklayer and a housewife with a love of gardening, Bernhard grew up poor and followed in his older brother's footsteps caddying at the local golf course so he could buy the sweets and treats his parents could not afford.

At age 15, Bernard turned pro and moved to Munich to start his first job as an assistant professional and that year, in 1972, he won his first tournament.

In 1985 he reached the pinnacle of his career: he won seven tournaments on five different continents and was ranked number one in the world.

He won not only the US Masters – the biggest event of his career – but also the Heritage Classic in Hilton Head, the Australian Masters, the Casio World Open in Japan, the Sun City Million Dollar event and two events in Europe.

He had married his wife, Vikki, just the year before.

Yet the feeling Bernhard associates with that time in his life is emptiness.

"I had just won the Masters, I [was] driving to Hilton Head with my beautiful young wife, and I felt empty," he told CNN in 2015. "I [didn't] know why."

In Hilton Head fellow golfer Bobby Clampett invited Bernhard to attend the Wednesday night Tour Bible study group.

Bernhard had tried his whole life to follow the rules. Born in a traditional religious family, he went to church every week of his childhood and kept all the rules and rituals of his church heritage.

That night when the leader of the Tour study group told him none of those things mattered, and that all he needed to enter the Kingdom of God was to be born-again, Bernhard did not understand.

"It didn't make any sense to me. Surely, at the age of 28, I could not be born again. So at the end of the study, I asked the teacher what he meant by 'reborn'."

The leader opened the Bible and showed Bernhard John Chapter 3 verse 3: "Truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God".

“The emptiness that had been haunting me went away”Casting his mind back to the encounter 30 years ago, Bernhard says: "It quickly became clear what was missing in my life. I didn't have a personal relationship with God or Jesus Christ.

Bernhard Langer
Langer poses with the Charles Schwab Cup, having won the championship. (Photo Darren Carroll/Getty Images)

"I was amazed to realise that the only way to have eternal life is through Jesus. That He died for our sins, and that it is not through our deeds or good behaviour that we receive eternal life because we can never live up to God's standard, we will always fall short.

"After understanding that God loved me so much that He sent His only Son to die for my sins, it felt natural for me to ask the Lord into my life."

After that point Bernhard began to notice changes in his life, his marriage; his outlook and his priorities. He began to put God first, then his family, and then his career – and found that when he did that the feeling of emptiness that had been haunting him went away.

"We're so involved with the here and now we have for 70, 80, or 90 years, when it's all about the eternal ranks," Bernhard says. "Our life is just a fleeting moment compared to eternity."

He also says his 1993 Masters win, which fell on Easter Sunday, is far more meaningful to him than the '85 victory "because I won as a Christian".

"Easter is what sets Christians apart," he continues. "Jesus was risen and no one else has risen from the dead."

There are times where Bernhard's faith has been tested, notably the missed putt that cost Europe the 1991 Ryder Cup.

But he explains life as a Christian is not always easy, and that in such times you can choose to either blame God or draw closer to him. He chose the latter, and says it is "a decision I have never regretted".

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