LPGA Tracy Hanson Testimony
Crowds roaring with approval. Friends thinking I’m a star athlete. Teachers singing praises about my grades. While growing up, I found my significance in my athletic and academic performances. If I did well, I felt great; if I failed, I felt awful. I put all my efforts into working hard on the basketball court, on the golf course, and in class, thinking that I would be loved if I performed well.
Growing up in rural northern Idaho, I had a good family life and never was in trouble because of drugs or alcohol. Church, however, was not a priority in my family. We were the classic “holiday churchgoers.” My only motivation to stay on track and work hard was my drive to excel as an athlete.
After high school, I earned a golf scholarship to San Jose State University, in San Jose, California. I was excited, but scared. Moving to San Jose would take me more than 1000 miles away from home to a “big” city. I had a lot of time to think on the long drive to school.
I remembered reading a book about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I was nervous about starting this next phase of my life, so as I drove, I began to pray and asked Jesus to come into my life. I told Him that I was far from perfect and needed His forgiveness for my sins. Nothing seemed to happened. I turned my attention back to the radio hoping the rest of the drive would soon be over.
At San Jose State I quickly settled into school. I started to read the bible every day, but my motivation was short-lived and I didn’t make an effort to learn more about what it means to know Jesus personally. Without any understanding of my own, or people to help me, I went right back into “performing” on the golf course and in the classroom in order to find my worth and significance.
I knew God intellectually, but He was not part of my every day life. I went through the motions of attending church and bible study. I would tell people I was a Christian, but I would never tell them about my faith.
I had moments of growth when I thought that I was getting to know God and His love. Yet, time after time, I would quickly turn my back on Him and go in my own direction.
Fortunately God never turned His back on me. I have experienced again and again the reality of His promise: “I will not fail you or forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5)
I continued to be successful in college. I not only won many golf tournaments but also was viewed as a model student-athlete. I was graduated with honors, and shortly afterward I turned professional and pursued a spot on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour.
Up to this time my faith had not really been tested. My first challenge after college came when I had back surgery. My dream of playing professional golf was in jeopardy. I prayed that God would take control and that if He wanted me to compete, He would allow me to do so. I recovered from the surgery and I earned my way onto the LPGA tour. But, I took the credit for it — I didn’t give the glory to God.
Over the years, my faith has been changing and growing. My “head” knowledge of God has been seeping down into my heart, and I have begun to truly know His love.
In May, 1997, I went through a broken engagement and my life was in shambles. My performance on the tour declined, and my back troubles increased. I was in constant turmoil. I found nowhere else to go except to God. On my knees I prayed, “Lord, I need You to show me what to do.” As my heart ached and my pride was shattered, I gave God control of my circumstances. I yielded to Him and peace flooded my heart.
In this moment of obedience to God, I felt the walls around my heart disintegrate. God’s arms seemed to wrap around me, and I knew that He loved me for who I was, not for what I did. I was thirsty for God to teach me. I wanted to know Him more intimately. Over the next couple of months He surrounded me with committed Christian friends, and I spent time studying God’s Word, reading Christian books, and listening to Christian music.
In autumn of 1997 my mom suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with melanoma cancer. Immediately our family pulled together. During the next nine months, Mom went through two brain surgeries, a period of healing, radiation and chemotherapy. Now, as I look back, I understand what God had been doing the previous months. He was strengthening and preparing me for this difficult time. It not only helped me to handle this trial, but it enabled me to show His love with my family.
I knew that the only way to survive the pain and hurt was to immerse myself in Scripture and to allow God to comfort me and fill me with His peace. Once again God took me to my knees. Through it all I trusted that God was in control and that He was working His plan according to His will for all of us. Instead of walking away from God as I had done in college, I ran toward Him.
In May, 1998, Mom died, but I have continually experienced God’s grace during the grieving process. Every day I ask Him for strength and courage to go on.
Since my mother’s death, God has given me an increased desire to use my own experiences to reach out to other people and to tell them that God’s love is enough. As a result of my own situation, I am able to empathize with others who are hurting — not on my own strength but only through Christ’s strength.
Life as a professional golfer can be a roller coaster ride. Competing at a high level mentally, emotionally and physically day in and day out is a challenge I constantly must overcome. It’s very easy to allow my performance to dictate my internal thoughts. I’m so thankful that in the big picture of life that golf is only a very small part of who I am. One day I won’t be competing on the LPGA Tour. Keeping that in perspective, I realize that my significance and worth are not based on how well I perform on the golf course or in any other area of my life. My value comes from who I am in Jesus Christ. Because He died on the cross for my sins, I can experience His presence now and live with Him forever. With or without golf, I am a child of God and no circumstance in my life can take that away.
I consider it an amazing privilege to play professional golf as a career. God has given me a great family and many treasured friends. And in everything I do, I give Him the glory. I am thankful for all of my experiences, whether it be suffering, disappointment, joy, love, or success, for without them I would not know the faithfulness of God’s love in my heart and in my life.