After eight years as a professional golfer, 32-year-old South African Andrew Georgiou has decided to retire from the South African Sunshine Tour and focus on business opportunities, in particular his new golfing app.
Andrew, who played in the 2012 British Open, 2014 Canadian Open and on several other tours in South Africa and Europe, debuted in 2009, after growing up on the Erinvale Golf Course in Somerset West (where he holds the course record of 62). He now spends half his time there and half in Atlanta, Georgia, having moved to the States originally on a full-ride golf scholarship to Columbus State University in 2005.
The home Andrew grew up in was not only surrounded by golfing greens and beautiful mountains, but also by a very strong faith in the God of the Bible and His Son Jesus.
His mother, Erin, is the editor and publisher of Joy!, Africa's leading evangelical Christian magazine. Andrew attended Sunday School from an early age and later the church youth group. He was nine when he prayed to ask Jesus to forgive his sins and rule his life.
"I was young and didn't fully understand the commitment I was making but the Holy Spirit [invisible power of God] guided me through my teens," he remembers, and the difference God has made in his life is evident. "There were many times in my teens where I could have tried drugs and gone down the wrong path but I can happily say that I have never tried any type of drug in my life. There was and is still the pressure of sexual immorality but fortunately I can also say that I am waiting for marriage."
His faith also informs his approach to sport. "Before every round of golf, I commit it to Jesus, then go out and compete as hard as I can," Andrew says. "I know my Lord wants me to be a winner. He wants me to give 100 percent of everything I have - in my practice, in using my mind, and in playing the best I know how - and then thank Him for the results, whatever they are. That takes a lot of pressure off because if you do that, you are a winner in Jesus' eyes, no matter what happens."
However, just because someone is serving God does not mean there won't be challenges and disappointments in life.
At 17 Andrew learnt a valuable lesson about how God does not always work in the way we expect or always answer our prayers as we'd like, when he failed to qualify for the SA Amateur Championship. He was really angry with himself and God because qualification would have greatly expanded his opportunities in the sport.
"The problem was that I wanted it so badly, that God was not my first priority. He taught me the lesson that He does indeed work in mysterious ways and that He always needs to be number one in my life," Andrew learnt.
As Philippians 4, verse 9 in the Bible tells us, God's ways are higher than our ways, though, and His plans for those who love Him are always ultimately for their good; which Andrew found out when those who were chosen ended up doing poorly in very bad conditions, leaving him higher in the rankings for NOT going. He went on to play well in the South African Boys tournament the following week and got a spot on the four-man Junior World Cup team that travelled to Japan. There Andrew finished 12 in the world, which led to his scholarship to Columbus!
Andrew had an exceptional college career and was a four-time All American and the only player in CSU history to compete in every single event for four years.
In college, he made friends with other Christian golfers who met regularly for prayer, and, when playing on the South African Sunshine Tour, he joined several prominent golfers who met in a Bible study group called 'Golfers for God'.
As he tweeted recently, "having one Lord worldwide makes me at peace no matter where I am!"
Andrew shares that the toughest part of being a Christian pro golfer is "being in a different city every week can be very tempting" because "we're surrounded by non-believers in a very no-accountability situation".
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happens"I'm so glad that I have been able to be strong in my faith," he says, "And it really helps to surround yourself with other believers!"
The Bible offers him this encouragement: "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:12-13)
Andrew says he has found transitioning from the status and prestige of the Sunshine Tour difficult, as there are some who only respected him based on his fame, rather than his character.
"Now that I'm not on tour anymore I'm just Andrew and a lot of people who used to look up to me now don't," he says wryly.
That is when he remembers that his identity is grounded in God's love for him, not in how much money he makes or what his golfing handicap is.
God has gifted Andrew not only in sport but with creativity and a good head for business. With the input of his father, the entrepreneur has been developing a niche golfing app for the last few years. This year Golfplayed was launched globally at the annual PGA Merchandise Show in Florida, USA. Andrew also got an opportunity to promote the app to The Shark Tank in Atlanta, Georgia in order to get development funding.
The idea was conceived from scratch after Andrew was once asked how many courses he had played and he had no idea, and couldn't find an app to help him capture his golfing memories. He calls his free app the "The LinkedIn of golf!" and hopes it will open up the world's greens to all sorts of golfers, through the connections made.
The app allows golfers to keep track of and share with others, where, how, in what conditions and with whom they played. It is available free on iOS and Android.
"I can truly say that without Jesus in my life I wouldn't have ended up where I am today," Andrew declares. "I still have my ups and downs, however I now know that the Lord has a greater purpose and plan and He provides me with an inner peace whatever situation I find myself in. I look forward to what He has in store for my journey and I will glorify Him all the way."•