2011 FCA More than a Breakfast with Pros at THE PLAYERS Championship!

Golf Writer Andy Reistetter attended the “Breakfast with the Pros” event sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) on Wednesday of the 2011 PLAYERS. Professional golfer Kevin Streelman and Grammy Award winning recording artist Toby Mac were the featured guests. With an unusual connection to Tiger Woods, here is his account of the experience.

Grammy Award winning Toby Mac was the headliner for the Fellowship for Christian Athletes (FCA) "Breakfast with the Pros" on Wednesday morning during PLAYERS week.

Grammy Award winning Toby Mac was the headliner for the Fellowship for Christian Athletes (FCA) “Breakfast with the Pros” on Wednesday morning during PLAYERS week.

I tried to remember back when I was a teenager and a high school athlete.

Getting up early for breakfast with my golf team and then going to the PLAYERS did not happen in my hometown of Binghamton, New York.

It did happen for a lot of Northeast Florida high school golfers on Wednesday at the 2011 PLAYERS.

Given the smiles, laughter and general buzz as the kids filed through the buffet breakfast lines, I have to admit it was likely easier for them than for me to make the 7 a.m. breakfast bell. Probably because their mother woke them up and Dad drove them there.

Two things struck me immediately that morning.

The first was that it was May 11, exactly six months before the interesting date of 11-11-11.

The date of November 11, 2011 is being chosen by many solitary figures, as singular as those six ones in the date, to be their wedding day.

I wondered how this fellowship experience, for what seemed like a thousand young people, would make them a stronger, taller “one” able to coexist with the other seven billion “ones” in this world of ours?

The second was that this was the same place I came to as part of the overflow world media gathering back on February 19, 2010, the day Tiger Woods addressed the world at the clubhouse at nearby TPC Sawgrass.

I realized the FCA breakfast commanded twice the convention center space of the Tiger Woods gathering.

One crowd was older, supposedly wiser and working.

The other crowd was younger, full of life and not working, or were they?

_2 Zach JohnsonI wondered what impact, if any, the Tiger Woods scandal had on these young folks?

What impact will today’s breakfast have on them and what will be different in their lives in six months on 11-11-11?

I was hungry, so I joined the youth movement and loaded up my plate with eggs and bacon and grabbed an orange juice on the way to finding my table.

Most tables were clusters of color coded teams with matching team logos on their shirts. I realized the youngsters ranged from middle school through college. Some tables were mostly girls, others just guys and many mixed.

Todd Lewis from the Golf Channel was the Master of Ceremony and acknowledged how blessed he was to have his job and to be able to interface with the world’s greatest golfers.

One by one, pro golfers popped up from around the cavernous room, grabbed a microphone and shared their faith, testimony and connected with the young people in the room. Folks whose names you would recognize for sure: Mark Wilson, Stewart Cink, Fred Funk, Zach Johnson and Aaron Baddeley.

Others maybe not as famous but whose words and faith were just as strong and penetrating: John Rollins, Scott Stallings, Jonathon Byrd, Jeff Klauk, Bryce Molder, Chris Stroud, Kenny Knox, Tommy Gainey and Webb Simpson each had their turn to share their faith.

Zach Johnson echoed the life message present throughout the morning… “Don’t get caught up in the highs or the lows (of life), work hard, pursue, and persevere.”

Molder, of the Georgia Tech gang of Cink, David Duval and Matt Kuchar, takes pride in his school and noted he finds as much pleasure in his friends playing well on tour as he does when he is playing well.

Baddeley recalled how fortunate he was to win early in his career in 2006 on Hilton Head Island on Easter Sunday.

Stroud told the story of being paired with Wilson in the final round of the 2006 Q-School.

With nine holes to go, he was seemingly out of it, while Wilson was comfortably on his way to earning his tour card.

As fate would have it, Stroud birdied five holes coming in, shot 65 and earned his card with a T16 finish.

Wilson played poorly, missed a critical 6-footer on the last, shot 74 and headed for the airport thinking he missed his chance.

As fate would have it, Wilson made it on the number and won his first PGA Tour event the following spring at the Honda Classic. This year, he has won twice already.

Stroud’s one word to describe Wilson’s faith and golfing pursuits is “strong,” and he encouraged the young athletes in the room to do it like Wilson did with a great attitude and perseverance.

Simpson read his favorite biblical passage, Titus 3:3-7 from his cell phone:

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (New International Bible Version)

This was not a “cookie-cutter” event, but rather, a unique sharing of faith with the hope of inspiring young people to find their way in life, their own unique way for the benefit of others as well as themselves.

In the end, it may have been the energy, jubilance and smiles of the young that inspired the old.

Toby Mac then took the stage and brought the audience out of their seats with several songs including his lead-in “Love is In the House.”

“Mama always said it’s a matter of fact that when love is in the house the house is packed.”

It seemed the lyrics matched the event.

Streelman then joined Toby on stage and urged us all to “enjoy the journey (in life) as much as the destination.”

“Streels” told the story of how he and Mac paired up for the Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this year when his friend, Paul “Stanko” Stankowski, couldn’t play with Toby Mac, so he invited him to.

Toby, who started playing golf at age 13 and played Division II golf at Liberty University in Virginia, was quite nervous leading up to the pro-am and developed a certain type of golf shot that rhymes with Verplank.

He shared swing video with Streelman and was able to straighten his swing out before his Pebble Beach debut.

Together, they played well, coming within two strokes of making the cut, which is no small achievement for a rookie team at Pebble Beach with beautiful weather and huge galleries this year…

On stage, Kevin and Toby “ham ‘n egged” it for quite some time reflecting back to the time they were the age of the people in the audience.

Toby shared how he found Christ and then invited his father to go to church with him. After that, everything “flipped” for his family, and though at times his identity waivered, he emphasized what an important time in life those teen age years are.

His breakthrough realization in life was when he decided to write about what is important to him. His music became the ultimate passion then versus being a task that needed to be done.

As his final lyrics of the morning encouraged the youth once more… “If we got to start something, why not here, why not now?”

For me personally, in my life, I did not have to remember something I will never forget.

The impact of coaches like Fran Heath and organizations like the Christian Youth Organization (CYO) had a profound impact on my life growing up in central New York State.

We had the PGA TOUR there as well with the B.C. Open at En Joie Golf Club. I was there to see in 1974 when local golfer Richie Karl made a 35-foot putt to beat Bruce Crampton in a playoff.

While Karl may be the last club professional to win on the PGA Tour, his victory that day was the first of many times in my life that golf, faith and inspiration would converge in my life.

The Wednesday FCA breakfast was another time. It was as inspiring as K.J. Choi’s playoff win over David Toms at the 2011 PLAYERS. It was as inspiring as David Toms’ win the next week at Colonial CC, his first in over five years.

Be inspired. When the tour comes to your town, attend the FCA breakfast.


Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer as well as a Research and Broadcast Assistant for the major golf broadcast companies. He spends time on all four major American golf tours- the PGA TOUR, Champions, Nationwide and LPGA Tours.

Reistetter resides within a couple of miles of the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.